Book Review: The Reddening by Adam L. G. Nevill

THE REDDENING

Author: Adam L. G. Nevill

Publisher: Ritual Limited

Release Date: October 2019

When a stack of human remains and prehistoric artefacts is discovered in the small town of Brickburgh, a media circus descends upon South Devon. One of the reporters pressed into service is lifestyle journalist Katrine, who has escaped her traumatic past by moving to the sedate environs of the Westcountry. Meanwhile, single parent Helene also finds herself drawn to Brickburgh – haunted by the subterranean recordings her dead brother Lincoln made six years earlier. The deeper the two women dig, the more myth and reality start to blur in this sleepy corner of Devon. Are the rumoured disappearances – dating back decades – connected to the shadowy drug plantations? Or are they related to sightings of the mythical ‘red folk’? Or is the truth too hideous to contemplate?

Earlier this year I was walking the coastal path between Paignton and Brixham – a walk I have done dozens of times – when I got distracted by my phone and ended up straying off the beaten track. Unconcerned, I trudged ahead into a ravaged section of landscape I had no recollection of ever seeing before. I felt suddenly disorientated, but unable to turn back. I carried on for another five minutes – each step stranger than the last until something in my mind snapped like one of the rotten branches underfoot and I hastily retraced my steps, through tangled foliage and across uprooted tree trunks, and re-joined the coastal path. I was so unnerved that I joked to some friends that evening that I briefly felt like I had stumbled into a scene from The Ritual! Not long after, I started reading The Reddening. Suffice to say, as a South Devon resident this book had an extra charge for me!

Most Devon horror stories begin and end on Dartmoor, so from the outset The Reddening feels like a particularly refreshing curve-ball of a story. Nevill has an impressive knack for bringing the coastal paths of Devon to life – and imbuing them with a sinister, otherworldly energy. His hyper-literate writing style is queasy and immersive at the same time and adds to the sense of slow building dread. He also shifts gears effortlessly. Whether veering into subterranean folk-horror or gruelling survival thriller territory, the action is always utterly convincing. In addition, all of the main characters and supporting players have meaty, convincing back stories and never feel like unfinished sketches.

Suffice to say, The Reddening is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last year – a fantastic achievement, and a book squirms with the kind of rotten scenes that live long in the memory. There are insidious horrors lurking amongst the mud, shit and foliage in South Devon. I dare you to take a closer look.

Buy The Reddening!

Review by Tom Leins

Book Review: A Lovely Way To Burn by Louise Welsh

A LOVELY WAY TO BURN

Author: Louise Welsh

Publisher: John Murray

Release Date: March 2014

A Lovely Way To Burn unfolds in contemporary London, as a deadly pandemic known as ‘The Sweats’ takes hold and cuts a swathe through the population. Set against the backdrop of a city in crisis, the story follows Stevie – a feisty shopping channel host – who is determined to investigate the sudden death of her boyfriend, the eminent Dr Simon Sharkey. As bodies start to pile up across the capital, and London becomes gridlocked with people fleeing infection, Stevie plunges deeper into the ravaged cityscape in search of answers.

I read (and thoroughly enjoyed) this book in January – before most people had encountered the increasingly terrifying Coronavirus – and every time I sat down to write my review the world had seemingly lurched slightly further into pre-apocalyptic chaos… which put me off revisiting the book until now!

It may seem macabre to recommend a relentlessly grim book about a fictional pandemic during an actual pandemic, but A Lovely Way To Burn was first-rate. The prose is fantastic – the line about a teenage soldier’s bad teeth being ‘as crowded and overlapping as drinkers in a station bar’ was one of my favourites. I read Louise Welsh’s excellent debut novel The Cutting Room (2002) nearly two decades ago, and while this is a very different beast, it is no less impressive. It’s a genuinely gripping thriller grounded by its refreshingly down-to-earth protagonist and impeccable attention to detail.

If the sudden onslaught of an inexplicable infection seemed too far-fetched when this book was published six years ago, it now seems uncomfortably prescient. (Note: A Lovely Way To Burn is the first in the ‘Plague Times Trilogy’. I’m sure we’ll have the time to read all three of them before normal life – or something close to it – resumes.)

Review by Tom Leins

 

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Sonia Kilvington

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Sonia Kilvington to discuss her new short story collection, Nightmare Asylum & Other Deadly Delights (Close To The Bone).

Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Nightmare Asylum! How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

I have been writing short stories for the last thirty years or more, and I have always dreamt of having my own collection. I selected my favourite stories with the strongest characters and the most unique situations for the book. Still, I wasn’t sure about the running order and wondered if I should have started it with a horror story or maybe I should have begun with a little more conventionally structured story such as ‘Women’s Work’. I am always second-guessing myself.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?

Yes, I do! It took me about five years to write ‘Nightmare Asylum’ because I did so many drafts, trying to capture the atmosphere of a reoccurring nightmare that I had experienced in my twenties. Night after night I dreamt I was trapped in a Victorian mental asylum and nobody would believe a word I said. I have no idea where that dream came from although I was taken a couple of scary looking psychiatric hospitals to visit a relative when I was young. I channelled my feelings of frustration from the dream into the story as well as my belief in the paranormal. For years it felt like the story I really needed to write.

What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?

The oldest story is ‘Winter Baby’ which I wrote twenty-six years ago. It’s been through many of edits since its earliest conception! My style was a lot more poetic back then, and I have gradually moved away from that, although at times the poetry tends to creep back in.

Your collection has been published by Close To The Bone – do you have any favourite CTTB authors or titles you would like to recommend?

Of course! I am keeping excellent company with writers such as yourself, Chris Roy and the marvellous Paul D. Brazill! There’s a stack of excellent books available from CTTB but, my personal favourites are, Meat Bubbles & Other Stories, Her Name is Mercie and A Case of Noir. For future fun I have pre-ordered, Come Join The Murder by Holly Rae Garcia.

Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

I love audiobooks and will listen to the latest psychological thrillers, crime fiction and noir, especially if the actors/actresses have interesting voices. When I read, I prefer independent books, which don’t usually make it to Audible.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

I have never really thought of writing fiction as a career, it always been a passion that I hoped I would be able to share with people who were willing to read my stories. I greatly admire writers who have many different tales to tell, especially Stephen King, who has had his books made into some terrific films. I would love to have some of my more unusual stories made into movies as they are very visual, especially ‘Nightmare Asylum’ and ‘Perfect Love’.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I am thinking of turning one of the shortest stories from the book, Jake, into a novella as the characters are still lingering in my head and I think they have a lot more to say. I am also planning on re-editing my first novel, the Main Line Murders, before writing the final instalment of my DI Flynn series. There’s a lot to do, so not too much time for messing about re-writing the same sentences for hours on end, as I usually do.

Bio:

Sonia Kilvington is a journalist and fiction writer from Cyprus, who loves to write dark and disturbing short stories in genres such as noir, crime, horror and sci-fi. Credits include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Pulp Metal Magazine and Near To The Knuckle. Her new short story collection, Nightmare Asylum & Other Deadly Delights – published by Close To The Bone, is available on Amazon.

Website: https://soniakilvingtonwriter.com/