Solaris, out now
Poe’s Tooth Books – the result of a long-held dream or the start of a nightmare for former teacher Oliver Gooch?
Stephen Gregory’s horrific novel will work its way into your thoughts in the same way that the titular crow inveigles its way into every part of the lives of Oliver Gooch, his wife and daughter. The characters with whom it interacts are none of them pleasant, and you watch as Oliver’s self-deception mounts, leading, it seems, inevitably to tragedy.
The story starts from another tragedy – Oliver’s daughter Chloe is brain-damaged in a car accident and the foul-mouthed teen becomes a much simpler girl. While Oliver’s wife Rosie desperately wants her to recover, Oliver is much happier with the person she is now – and there’s a nagging feeling throughout the book that he has darker reasons for this than he will admit to himself, and times when you uncomfortably feel that he’s only telling you half the story about what his relationship currently is with the girl.
Oliver is given a tooth, apparently belonging to Edgar Allen Poe, and Gregory’s story is a homage in tone to the American writer’s work. Oliver himself recognises the similarities between the way his life develops and Poe’s fiction, while the malevolent influence of the crow has elements of The Monkey’s Paw about it. Gregory’s writing takes you inside Oliver’s thoughts as the world around him and his psyche disintegrate, leaving you for much of the time wondering how much of what we’re told really is happening – until the final act when much becomes clear.
Verdict: A dark tale that slowly but surely tightens its grip. 8/10