After a horrific car accident years earlier in which his wife and daughter were killed, Thomas Usher begins to see ghosts. For a long time he exists in a shadowy half world, as a kind of supernatural investigator, unable to forget his past. But when he takes a job for local gangster Baz Singh, whose daughter has been brutally murdered, Usher is drawn into a nightmare, as the case connects with that of a missing child, a relative of his friend and lover, Ellen.
This story could be considered a supernatural noir, as many elements of the old film noir detective stories are here: the hard-boiled detective with a dark past, the dangerous gangsters, the beautiful but unobtainable woman and the central mystery that twists and turns unexpectedly. However, as the book progresses the supernatural horror elements become more apparent. Some are actually quite amusing modern takes on the horror genre, for example Usher is menaced by hoodie wearing faceless monsters, the original members of a vicious gang that stalked his home town of Leeds decades earlier and enjoyed meddling in the supernatural.
The two main mysteries Usher must solve are the hanging deaths of three young women, and the disappearance of little Penny Royale, a storyline I couldn't help but connect with that of real-life Shannon Matthews. Usher's world is full of shady and downright nasty characters, especially a paedophilic phony spiritualist. But Usher also has a few friends, including a spiritual tattoo artist with almost mystic powers who gives Usher sage-like advice and tattoos on his body the names of all the ghosts he has failed to help. Tattooist Elmer Lord is an interesting character who I would have liked to have featured a bit more in the story.
This is a decent enough book, if you enjoy a dark read, but it never really compelled me to read on. I had an ominous sense early on as to what direction the story would take, although there were a couple of surprises along the way. There are a few graphic scenes towards the end that the more squeamish might not enjoy, but for a horror it was fairly accessible, horror isn't a genre I would normally read. I would also like the author to have expanded a bit upon some of the mythology behind his 'bad guys' as I found them a bit one-dimensional - evil for evil's sake.