The novel originally chosen for this day’s review disappeared from my Kindle, along with all of my review notes, and I couldn’t retrieve it online (gremlins I guess), so I had to scramble to replace it with another Halloween appropriate novel. Luckily I had also downloaded Dead Bad Things by Gary McMahon. Dead Bad Things is Book# 2 in the Thomas Usher series of horror novels. Book #1, Pretty Little Dead Things, was called the best horror novel of 2010 by both Dark Fiction Review and Horror Fiction Review. Dead Bad Things can be read as a stand alone novel; however, I might have better understood some of the prior events alluded to in it if I had read Pretty Little Dead Things first.
This review comes with some strong cautions because Dead Bad Things is only for hard-core horror fans. It is definitely not for anyone under 18 years old, or the faint of heart, because it includes domestic violence and rape; ritualistic child abuse, torture, and murder; sexual abuse; child slavery and prostitution (chickens and chicken hawks); and cannibalism. Some of you are going “Eeew, not for me” about now, and some of you are going, “Bring it on!”
“He was sitting by the hole in the ground he’d just filled with soil. Wondering how long it would take for the remains to begin to rot. Down there, beneath the packed earth, lay a small boy he’d taken from a street in Birmingham three days ago. A small, underfed boy with not much to say for himself; he was maybe three or four years old.”
Thomas Usher sees, hears, and can interact with ghosts and other non-human entities. After his wife and daughter were killed in an accident, he was warned by an entity to leave his home in Leeds so he has lived in a grey zone in London ever since. After a fairly quiet time of mourning, things are becoming strange again. His curse seems to be reactivating. Recently he’s been getting phone calls from an entity who sounds like a clockwork voice. He’s fairly sure it’s the Pilgrim.
“I’ve always enjoyed a love-hate relationship with London. The capital seems always to welcome me, when I feel nothing but loathing in return…I had lost everything; lost them all. Rebecca, Ally, Ellen, and even the child Penny Royale – a girl I had not even met until she was dead.”
Trevor, who is tormented by the death of his younger brother Michael, used to be a well-known stage psychic but his psychic abilities have fled since he was exposed by Thomas Usher for having repeatedly molested Michael and caused Michael to kill himself. Trevor is living in Leeds. He is strung out on heroin a lot of the time. He has begun to see things in his mirror, hands pressing on the back side of the mirror, and to hear voices, but are those hallucinations or not?
“He much preferred his stage name, Dove, but that was all in the past now. He doubted he could ever go by the name Trevor Dove again – not after what had happened. Not since he had been exposed.”
Sarah is a constable in Leeds who’s working on a case of ritualistic child murder. Her father, a well known and respected local DI (detective inspector), died about a year ago. She has a hard time reconciling his public persona with the man she knew, a sadistic, brutal man who terrorized both she and her mother to the point that her mother lost her mind and has been confined to a mental institution for years. He left his house to Sarah in his will and she has returned there against her better judgment to confront her memories of him and to learn his secrets. She has no doubt that he has bigger, nastier secrets than the awful ones she knows about, because if he behaved the way he did with his family then he had to behave worse with total strangers. How much worse even she cannot imagine.
“She shrugged her shoulders, one side at a time, trying to reduce the tension. Her back ached, an old injury caused by her father in a particularly dark moment.”
Dead Bad Things centers on these three people and how their lives intersect with each other and the Pilgrim. I’m not going to tell you more because, like a lot of horror stories, to do so would provide major spoilers. This is not a story for the faint of heart. It scared the crap out of me. I had to keep putting it down to come back to sane reality. At the same time, I had to admit that it was very well written. This one’s for all you adult horror buffs out there!
Dead Bad Things has already been released so it’s available at your favorite bookseller below.
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