by Andrew Pyper
Published by Orion Books, 2011.
With an impressive CV of thrillers to his credit including The Killing Circle (2009), New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year and Lost Girls (2000), which won the Arthur Ellis Award, Andrew Pyper now turns his pen to more supernatural matters with The Guardians.
Four hockey playing teenagers, Ben, Randy, Carl and Trevor are growing up in the Canadian town of Grimshaw. It’s a world of girls, hockey and school, but increasingly the boys lives become afflicted by the worries and complex relationships of adult life. “Ben had been the first of us to take a punch from the grown up world”, says Trevor following the death of Ben’s father. Casting a constant shadow over the boys lives is the old Thurman Place, a deserted building opposite Ben’s house with a troubled past. Following the disappearance of their favourite teacher the boy’s are forced to follow a trail deep into the dark shadows of the old house with consequences that will haunt them into their adult life.
Told in a dual narrative style, The Guardians successfully builds an atmosphere of foreboding around the haunted house elevating it beyond the traditional ghost house into a much darker focal point. Part of the narrative is told by Trevor who is afflicted by Parkinson’s disease and part of his treatment is the writing of a memory diary. The tragedy of Trevor’s illness is neatly contrasted against the innocence of youth at the start of the book. The gradual loss of that youthful innocence is a key driver in the narrative and this part of the tale is reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Body as we watch youthful exuberance gradually turn to grown-up tragedy.
The characters are all brilliantly realised and the complex relationships tightly woven into a fast moving plot. Above all though the house is an excellent creation and whilst it exhibits all the usual cliches (creaky doors, dark cellar etc) it ramps up the supernatural threat, as more of it’s backstory is revealed, to make it a genuinely chilling place. Everywhere the boys go, everything the men do, is overshadowed by the Thurman Place, ultimately it holds their dark secrets and they are compelled to return.
It really is hard to fault this book, as a character study it’s full of emotion, as a thriller it’s full of tension but most importantly as a supernatural horror its a dark and deeply chilling tale, The Guardians is a welcome addition to the horror bookshelf.
rating 4 out of 5