Titan, out now
The Naremore family need a fresh start – but will their new home at the Hollow provide it?
I’ve always enjoyed Kim Newman’s Johnny Alucard novels, admiring their combination of so many different elements, but I’ve not read as much of his standalone fiction as I would like – something I intend to remedy having thoroughly enjoyed this excellent addition to the ghostly oeuvre.
We know from the start that this a family who have been through turmoil – parents Stephen and Kirsty are trying to rebuild their fractured relationship; teen daughter Jordan doesn’t want to be parted from her boyfriend; ten-year-old Tim has retreated into a military mindset to cope with what’s been going on around him. The Hollow was the home of children’s author Louise Teazle, and they begin to realise that maybe some of her stories weren’t as fictional as you’d expect…
There are cross-references to some of Newman’s other work but it doesn’t matter if you don’t get the connections – everything you need for this story is provided. There are some “excerpts” from other works – and kudos to whoever thought of changing the author/title headers for these – which help to explain some of what’s happening, both for the reader and the family.
However, the majority of the clues come from the way in which Newman puts us inside the heads of each of the family members, as things start to get progressively worse around them. There’s an escalation of terror as they realise who and what is responsible, and Newman cleverly turns the screw on all of them, pitting them against each other in an uncomfortable magnification of the stresses they’ve faced before as other forces come into play.
There are some moments of sheer horror and many occasions where you’ll shiver even on the warmest day while reading this – the mark, to me, of a great ghost story.
Verdict: A chilling and, as the title suggests, a very English ghost story. 8/10