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53. The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell

Another novella, the follow up to Cornell's novella from last year, The Witches of Lychford.

Where the first book was mostly humorous - about three women, who all in one way or another can tap in to something "other", trying to stop a supermarket setting up shop on the outskirts of their small town, because it will bring down the barrier between worlds - this one is dark and scary.

It starts with one of the women (a C of E vicar) seeing the ghost of a child who is very much alive and well and loved begging for help.  A prince of Faerie contacts the owner of the local magic shop to try to warn her that something is wrong.  From there on the reader can see perfectly well what is going on, but the characters can't.  We also find out the truth about Judith's husband and it's not comic, as we've been led to believe, it's pretty horrific.

I couldn't put this one down, it's simply wonderful.

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52. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

This novella was recommended to me by Jonathan L Howard, author of the excellent Carter and Lovecraft.  It's basically a non-racist re-telling of The Horror at Red Hook.

The first half is the backstory of Black Tom (Charles Thomas Tester), a black man in 1920s Harlem who makes ends meet by doing what looks like low-level gangster jobs (acting as courier, etc) except that the trade is in occult objects, and his musings on how he's not going to allow himself to be broken by manual labour and racism like his father was.  This is the better half of the book.

The second half is from the point of view of one of the detectives hired by the family of the mysterious white dude who is buying up lots of slum property in Red Hook and this is where it becomes obvious this story is a re-imaging of Lovecraft's most infamously racist tale.  Although it is where most of the action lies, is less fulfilling because the character just isn't interesting.  However, the final battle and the outcome are very well done.

A quick read, and definitely worth your time.
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34. Dead Shift by John Llewellyn Probert

I'm not sure how I came to be aware of the launch event for this book, but it was held at a book shop in Clevedon called Books on the Hill that I'd been meaning to visit for some time, so I dragged Jason out to the seaside early on a Saturday morning to pick up a copy (and other things).

It's a Lovecraftian horror novella. A dying man performs a ritual to open the gates to another dimension in hospital (rather than at the place of great evil he originally intended) and three doctors, stuck on the night shift, have to save the world as the hospital is cut off from the rest of reality.

Not complicated, not even particularly original, but a terrifically fun read nonetheless. Some of it is genuinely creepy, balanced by some laugh-out-loud funny moments. Even if I hadn't read the author's note at the end it would have been obvious to me that his day job is in the NHS, because he captures that so perfectly.

Even though Probert lives locally and has written loads of stuff, I'd never heard of him before. I will definitely be seeking out more of his work.
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32. Fellside by MR Carey

A ghost story set in a women's prison. I'm a big fan of Carey's work and attended an interview with him at Waterstones where he talked about this book & the research he did before I read it, so I know that he has become a passionate advocate for prison reform and against the privatisation the prison services and the cutbacks that make life worse for inmates and staff alike.

He had wanted to write about drug addiction so it almost inevitably became a story about prison. A woman who has committed arson whilst under the influence of heroin, which resulted in the death of a child living in the same block of flats, is committed to Fellside, an enormous and corrupt prison for women in the middle of nowhere in the north. She is haunted by the ghost of her victim.

But mostly it's about prison life and survival in prison (for staff and inmates alike). It's not much like his previous work at all. I hate to use the terms literary and serious, but it is, and is more character than plot driven.

I liked it very much, but still not nearly as much as The Girl With All The Gifts. And although I saw the ending coming, I still didn't like it.
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And I appear to have exceeded the allowed number of tags on LJ, so from now on I can only use ones I've used before.

30. Who Killed Sherlock Holmes by Paul Cornell

Regular readers will know that I have been eagerly awaiting this one. Paul Cornell's Shadow Police novels are my very favourite supernatural detective series, mainly because they are straight up horror in a police setting, and an exercise in what smart people do when presented with the supernatural.

In Cornell's London, whatever London remembers is real, so Sherlock Holmes is one of the ghosts of London. One of the detectives, Sefton, has a dream that Sherlock Holmes has been killed, rushes to the Holmes museum at 221B, and finds a body that only those who have the Sight can see.

This coincides (or not) with three separate Sherlock Holmes films/TV shows being shot in London, and grisly deaths of people who have ever played Sherlock Holmes, in ways that make increasingly less sense.

Meanwhile, the data analyst Ross is on a quest to recover her lifetime's happiness (which she had to sacrifice in the last book to buy a crucial clue - one of the singular darkest things I've ever read), and Lofthouse, the senior office who doesn't know why she knows about the Shadow Police, finds out more about her past and how she came to be involved in all this. These are easily the best parts of the book.

I loved every second of it. Still not as much as London Falling, but it will be extremely difficult to beat that.
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21. The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen

Numerous horror/thriller writers that I rate, including Stephen King and HPL, have written about this being great and an important foundation text in the genre.

They're not wrong. Very late Victorian, but really, *really* creepy all the way through. I can see how it influenced HPL - something comes in from Elsewhere, and all the gory stuff happens off stage.

It's very short - so short I was reluctant to count it, but I'm reading War & Peace, so there. Definitely worth the effort.


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