Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs

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Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs

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Category: Humour
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: Whitby is invaded by a film crew set to remake a classic horror movie, at the same time as a Gothic festival - so mystery and mayhem are bound to be on the cards. Another mischievous and gruesome romp for the bizarre heroines, Brenda, the bride of Frankenstein, and Effie, the latest in the long line of the Whitby witches!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755346462

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The idea behind this series of novels is quite enchanting and amusing. Frankenstein's daughter is living and sleuthing in Whitby, ably aided and abetted by her sidekick, the enigmatic Effie, and a growing menagerie of younger accomplices, namely Michael and Penny. Whilst the original idea showed huge promise, I felt that the author has rather overdone it in terms of output, in his desire to capitalise on his original success. Book two in the series was quite disappointing, relying on sensationalism rather than adequate plot and character development. Book three was an improvement-and I'm delighted to report that this, the fourth book in the series, shows him returning to form with the promise we saw in the first of the series.

Whitby, of course, with its history of Dracula, and haunting, witches, etc is an ideal backdrop for this kind of novel. The author utilises this fully, and gives the reader some wonderfully descriptive passages of the town, and its spookily eerie Abbey, herein referred to as the entrance to Hell :brrrr! Into this locale come a film crew, who are refilming the 'classic' horror film, “Get Thee Inside Me, Satan” , which was removed from circulation when strange and inexplicable deaths occurred to anyone watching it and amongst the film crew who shot it. Far fetched and silly - of course it is, but it avoids the temptation to descend into the slapstick element which so spoiled book two - somehow, the horror, although far fetched, does seem to convey the impression that there could be a grain of truth amidst the horrific events. The original 'star' returns to resume her leading role - some decades later, apparently not aging in the interim. Clearly she too has a secret agenda……

The overall plot revolves around this very basic premise - but some interesting characters are developed, and by referring back to the original cast (and director, whose son is now redirecting the remake!), a degree of continuity is introduced, and in some ways makes it almost more believable than it would otherwise be - strange, but true, rather like the novel itself! A rather unappealing character in herself, the star is a veritable magnet for old and new fans alike - and in part we do feel a certain sympathy for her failed and flagging career, which she herself acknowledges, as she wonders how different her life could have been had her career followed a different path. Placed alongside the dreadful Mrs Claus, at whose Christmas themed hotel she is staying, she becomes in fact almost quite appealing! However there are secrets in the attic, which introduce yet another gruesome aspect to the narrative.

The true stars though are the indefatigable Brenda and Effie, this time wading through the problems the film crew present. By chance (!), Brenda too was part of the original film back up crew - yet another coincidence which could spoil the narrative - but once again, this actually works in quite well, and gives it a slight historical depth which would have been otherwise lacking. Brenda is becoming more 'human' (despite her otherworldly antecedents) as the series progresses, and Magrs relies less on shock tactics, and quick laughs, in his attempt to portray a truly troubled soul.

However, this novel is first and foremost a comic and fun read, and should be accepted as such. Attempting to find too much depth is to do it an injustice. I can't claim that I'll be tempted to read many more in the projected series - it's been a novel and quirky idea, but it really is beginning to reach saturation point in terms of further mysteries/murders etc. Having said that, I would recommend reading at least one of the series. Although the early books do give some background detail, it's not essential, as the basic premises are easy enough to fathom. Despite feeling that saturation point has been reached with the series, I would have to say that book four has been the best to date - perhaps this conclusion makes this reviewer as enigmatic as the novel she has reviewed! In conclusion - it is primarily a quick and easy read, either for a lazy day in a summer filled garden - or perhaps, more appropriately, curled up in front of a cosy winter fire….Laughs abound…but so too does a shiver or two!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Maskerade by Terry Pratchett.

Buy Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Hell's Belles by Paul Magrs at Amazon.com.


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