Body Count by Shaun Hutson

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Body Count by Shaun Hutson

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A tough London copper finds investigating a realm of internet snuff movies is more dangerous than he thought in this latest bloodbath, from an ever-dependable writer.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841494371

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There is a certain edge to the prologue to this latest Shaun Hutson. Is it a futuristic slasher, or a sci-fi slasher, an otherworldly fantasy slasher? You'll see the connection among my suggestions – this is a Shaun Hutson book, after all, and we can expect no let-up in the gore and carnage over the few hundred pages to follow.

The edge turns out to be the fact we are witnessing a snuff movie being made, from the viewpoint of the victim. The artificiality of the setting is the only thing that rings false, however, as throughout his career it seems Hutson has a knack for turning anything from modern life into a horror novel, and imbuing it all with some strong sense of reality.

On the other hand, this does feature yet another of his hardboiled policemen, DI Joe Chapman. He's typical for Hutson, a gritty, no-nonsense copper who snaps and rasps his dialogue just as often as he says it. He has troubles of his own in his homelife, including a runaway teenage daughter to find, but I'll only say the way he gets to come closer involved in investigating the snuff movie operation could only be Hutson.

And yet while it's unexpected, it still comes with the customary ring of logic and truth about it. Even when slashing his way through his cast-list of what some might think as unlikely and/or right-wing characters, Hutson never demands a great suspension of belief. (There are minor ones, however – a storeroom door that seems to open inwards, a car left in a fake crusher's yard with a tank of fuel still in it…) It's a very dark place Hutson takes us to, and therefore for a select fanbase, and while I wouldn't turn to his books on a regular basis in search of entertainment, I do have to admire his craft.

For those fans, who are already either urging me to have a life, or end it, for giving this book just four stars, this then is the snuff movie/revenge one. But to draw the book back to the basics thusly is to disguise the fact it is still a distinguished read, even considering the output of a genre writer like Hutson. He still has a page-turning quality, helped of course by the longest chapter covering seven full sides of large print, and maintains a strong narrative.

He remains a reliable writer. He'll never turn off his Iron Maiden CDs in order to write a pink and fluffy romance with lots of puss-cats. You'll never count on his hero or heroine to live to the last page, and he'll never be employed by the tourist board of wherever he sets his books (London, again, here).

And there will be copious people turned off this book by one of a number of things – the necessarily punchy and abrupt dialogue being the basis for much of the characterisation, the overarching darkness of the setting, both literally and figuratively, the small factor of the unlikely caused by having such a rich antagonist, and of course the quantity of claret pouring from copious wounds.

It's to a select few only, then, that this book can be recommended, but I see no problem in doing so. I found the last two Hutson books a bit uneven, patchy and just plain dodgy in some aspects, but this dark, straightforward action piece I think serves his skills better. I would like to thank Orbit for sending the Bookbag a review copy.

Our favourite British horror book at the Bookbag remains something completely different to the above – Angel Fire by Chris Blythe and Steven Parkhouse.

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