Having recently discovered the writing of Graham Masterton, I eagerly continued this dark and twisted series. He uses a chilling horror genre and mixes in the perfect dose of police procedural to keep me reading well into the night as I wonder what lurks in the coming pages. A member of a sewage inspection team goes missing underground, only to reappear without legs or eyes. His colleagues are sure they saw something, but cannot put it into words. Meanwhile, multiple women are turning up with odd foetuses inside them, claiming not to have been pregnant. What begins as a mystery, soon has DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel working new angles to discover what freaking phenomena might be taking place. Masterton does it again, pulling me in as he offers up some of the darkest writing I have read in years!
When called to the scene of a sewer issue, the maintenance team decides to investigate. While they find what they expect, a build-up of fat suppositories, there is something else, almost eerie, that awaits them. When one of the team goes missing underground, the others can only listen to the freakishly loud screams he makes, but cannot locate him. This will mean calling in the authorities, who are just as baffled.
Meanwhile, women around Tooting are developing awful abdominal pains and end up at the hospital. Even more confusing is the fact that ultrasounds show that they are pregnant, while none of them can understand why. Some vow chastity of late, while others purport to have terminated pregnancies in the recent past. What makes it even more baffling is the horrific state of these foetuses on the scans; malformed and looking more horrific than can be put into words. When they are analysed, these foetuses begin taking on a life of their own, attacking others and killing them for no apparent reason. Those who witness the attacks speak of smelling lemon and smoke, as well as seeing some hooded woman who appears as an apparition and speaks of ‘nestlings’.
Brought back together after their unique investigation the yer before, DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel try to make sense out of it all, only to be more baffled than anything. The sewage maintenance worker is found, legless and without eyes, speaking of some demon he saw before being attacked. More women have these odd foetuses within them and there does not seem to be a logical answer.
It is only when piecing together some of the odd ramblings that the police discover a few old maps that could speak some truth to what has been going on. Could these foetuses be symbolic of something larger? DC Pardoe and DS Patel will have to find some answers or Tooting could again be overrun by some spirits that take no prisoners, leaving only death and destruction.
Graham Masterton proves himself to be more than your average horror writer, tapping into deeper and more complex ideas, while leaving the reader transfixed in a state of something not easily put into words. There is an obvious horror theme that offered needed chills, alongside a well-developed police procedural to keep the reader entertained and seeking answers. The narrative flows with such ease that some of the supernatural aspects are less sci-fi than part of the larger, gory, underlying theme needed to keep the story from getting too sing-song. Great characters provide glimpses into the various aspects of intended message, some dark and others highly relatable to the reader. Masterton does not hold back at all, providing the reader with just what they need in a story that offers subtle and oft direct messages about societal values and ethnic sentiments.
The protagonist roles are again filled by DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel. While they work well together, both have their own backstories and development that will likely appeal to the reader. There are moments of personal growth and connection between them, but it is their police work that takes centre stage throughout. Working the case in their own ways, both bring unique skills to the table and use those to crack the case wide open. The reader will likely want to pay attention to some of the underlying comments made throughout, as it helps see the connection these two have, even if they are not usually working alongside one another. Others who grace the pages of the book offer great contrast and will likely be useful for the reader who wants a well-rounded read.
Graham Masterton does not seek to use gore for the sake of reaction, but weaves it into the middle of the story to develop an effective plot that pushes forward. The narrative clips along with ease, though nothing is as smooth as one might expect, especially with such disturbing aspects that appear in almost every chapter. The characters play their roles well, offering the reader insight into the depth of depravity needed to impact the story effectively. There are spine-chilling moments, but also much to be learned from those who play their role well. Plot twists occur regularly and keep the reader from being able to predict too much, though there are times when things get a little over the top, even for me. I often found myself wondering how well this book would translate into a movie of the horror genre, though there are times I worry it might get a little too over the top. Masterton offers some decent historical references and social commentary for the reader to consider, something I will not reveal here, as it is part and parcel of the overall reading experience. I cannot wait to get started on the latest novel, which I can only hope will be as exciting as these last two.
Kudos, Mr. Masterton, for this unique reading experience. You never cease to amaze me and I hope your fan base counties to grow!