Epitaph by Shaun Hutson

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Epitaph by Shaun Hutson

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Category: Horror
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A horror thriller of estimable narrative drive, which will be too hard-hitting for many, but powerfully gripping for many others.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841497648

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To state the obvious, all of us are afraid of different things. Gina, a woman having an affair in cheap hotels, is scared of getting caught. Paul, mid-30s and in advertising, sees the redundancy notice he's just been handed as prelude to a nightmarish future. And Laura, 8, can find the underpass from school to home, and echoing footsteps within it, too spooky. The nastiest thing about this book is that for all these characters, they're forced beyond these horrors, to find something even more frightening.

In a way this is a big change from the Shaun Hutson I know. There is no horrendous violence in the first few pages. There is no hard-boiled, school-of-stereotype police detective hero struggling in vain against some evil. But in many ways this is classic Hutson. Chapters rush past breathlessly, and if you need a break you can find a suitable cliffhanger every five pages at which to do so. Pacey, often dialogue-heavy writing carries little stylistic flourish that might disturb the sheer impetuous narrative. And the typical swing from one plot to another is evident, here taking even longer to resolve into the one same storyline.

It's a storyline that the cover blurb horrendously, criminally, reveals far too much of. I've said it before and I'll say it again, that normally Hutson hinges his plot around an aspect of modern life. Here it's an emotion, and which should be for you to discover.

I also said once that Hutson could take us further into the mindset of his characters. Be careful what you wish for. Paul's inner dialogue with a scathing side of his own personality only puts us closer to his predicament, which is intimate enough already. And the simplified vocab of Laura, with her knowledge that a nasty Mr Peter File sometimes leave disturbing work for her hospital staff daddy to clear up, will make this book stingingly nasty for many.

This is the least literally bloody Hutson book I know of, but it's the most visceral in other ways, tapping most successfully into maternal instincts, and belying quite strongly my first sentence, for nobody would wish to end up like Paul. A part of me wonders what fans of Hutson's gore-fest shockers - however literate those books are - will make of this. But if they don't think this is as clear-cut a success as his many other titles, then I have little time for them.

They're not anywhere near as low in my estimations as the blurb writer, however...

I must thank Orbit's kind people for my review copy.

People should notice my star rating for this book, and be prepared to remove half a star at least if they guess the "twist" as early as I did.

This put me in mind slightly of Captured by Neil Cross, for a similarly dark thriller.

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Buy Epitaph by Shaun Hutson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Epitaph by Shaun Hutson at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Epitaph by Shaun Hutson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Epitaph by Shaun Hutson at Amazon.com.


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