A group of white suburban teenagers decide to go and buy some drugs after leaving a rap concert. En-route their car breaks down, leaving them stranded in a rough inner-city neighbourhood in the dead of night. They are then approached by a group of black teenagers, and fearing they're about to be mugged, run into a large abandoned house at the end of the street. Once in the house they find they cannot get out, and what follows is reminiscent of Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets The Hills Have Eyes. The old decaying house is not what it appears. It's inhabited by a host of deformed in-bred, barely human cannibals, and rigged with traps. Murder and mayhem ensues.
I find it difficult to know what to say about this book. It reads like a mash-up of various Horror Films, and it's actually easy to imagine a film being made of it. It's fast paced, and entertaining in a switch your brain off way. It's not scary, at least I didn't think so, but it is gross. There are plenty of scenes that had me squirming and wondering if the scene was entirely necessary. It does, however, manage to stay the right side of decency - just; and it's not quite as clichéd as it first appears. Once inside the house, there is a bit more going on than you might originally think. The group of black teenagers are not so much the stereotypes you originally fear either.
I expected a bit more from this book, Brian Keene is the winner of two Bram Stoker Awards and I was hoping for something a little more innovative. I can't say I really liked this book, but I didn't dislike it either. This isn't really my type of horror. I prefer creeping dread and suggestion, rather than excessive violence and nausea inducing scenes. Also I didn't really care for any of the characters, they were to my mind typical horror fodder. My only thoughts regarding each of them was to wonder how they were going to die. The prose is blunt, functional and adequate to the task.
This was my first reading of Keene, and it's left me undecided about his writing. I've not been put-off from reading Keene in the future. I think this particular story was not to my tastes, but it wasn't a difficult read. I imagine I could potentially enjoy idling a few hours with another of his books. Perhaps, I've just been spoiled with the quality of books I've been reading recently, but overall this seemed pulpy and trashy to me. To be fair I also think that's the point, it's not trying to be High Art.
Urban Gothic is exactly the type of Horror Novel that many people enjoy, fast paced, gory and no-nonsense. If you're looking for something cerebral or innovative I suggest you look elsewhere. This is not a great book, but it's not a bad book either. It is exactly what it aims to be, and I've no doubt some will find it very enjoyable. Check this out if you're mourning the loss of Richard Laymon or can't wait for the next Shaun Hutson.