Author: David Moody
Publisher: Infected Books
Purchase from: Amazon
Review by: John Milton
Undoubtedly best known for his epic zombie series ‘Autumn’, and the ‘Hater’ books which garnered the attention of none other than Guillermo del Toro, it would be unfair to pigeonhole David Moody as “The Zombie Guy” and in fact, the ‘Hater’ series isn’t about zombies but that’s another matter entirely! Moody has explored other genres such as science fiction and dark fantasy but here with ‘Strangers’, he has created a horror tale that in the author’s own words is “the closest I’m ever going to get to a vampire novel”.
“A spate of brutal murders occur in and around the small town of Thussock. The bodies of the dead – savagely mutilated, unspeakably defiled – are piling up with terrifying speed. There are no apparent motives and no obvious connections between the victims, but the killings only began when Scott Griffiths and his family arrived in Thussock...”
The synopsis provided above sets the scene adequately but fails to take into account some of the flourishes that truly draw the reader in. Moody brilliantly captures the feeling of a small, rundown Scottish town after industry has pulled out leaving the town and its inhabitants near destitute. Moreover, that small town vibe is confirmed by the treatment and suspicion in which the new arrivals are greeted with. The rumours travel fast and mere gossip soon becomes established fact...
Stripping back the horror element here, the story is principally about a dysfunctional family, struggling to make a fresh start in a new town and contending with the financial and domestic difficulties that come with such situations. Attention to the development of the characters in this regard makes ‘Strangers’ all the more compelling. Similarly, the author has clearly done his homework here and it is appreciated that Moody has been mindful of what may be seen as minor details such as differences in Scots legal procedure. However, such awareness served to heighten my own enjoyment of the story, since more than mere lip service has been paid to the fact that the tale is set in Scotland.
Naturally, ‘Strangers’ won’t appeal to everyone and indeed, those looking for some kind of vampiric tale containing capes, castles or even the sparkling undead, will be left sorely disappointed. Setting aside what this book isn’t, ‘Strangers’ is Moody’s attempt to emulate one of his literary heroes: bestselling British author, the late James Herbert. The result is a gory, dark tale of horror with fully developed central characters that certainly doesn’t hold back on the viscera; so much so that I genuinely felt uncomfortable with the description of the injuries and mutilation suffered by one of the victims here.
Without being gratuitously salacious, ‘Strangers’ is an achievement in itself in that it is a “dark and dirty” novel that hooks the reader in immediately with a murder in the opening pages and thereafter, introduces the main players in proceedings while ramping up the tension, paranoia and bodycount without sacrificing the plot for the sake of gore.
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