Most helpful positive review
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Dark and gloriously twisted
on 6 April 2011
This book is a dark and twisted horror story in a glorious Victorian setting; it is so good that I am still struggling to believe that this is Jon Mayhew's debut novel.
This is a stunning story and, cliched though this may sound, you really will not want to put it down. Read it on the train and you will probably miss your station; read it at night and before you know it will be the early hours of the morning (and then you won't dare turn off the lights for fear that those noises outside or in the attic may be the scratching beaks or talons of the abominable Ghuls). The pacing of the story drew me in right from the very start, and with all the requisite peaks and troughs to keep the tension mounting throughout the book I found myself on one hell of an escapist ride.
Mr Mayhew obviously put a great deal of time and effort into researching this story. His atmospheric descriptions of the Victorian locations and characters reminded me very much of the work of a couple of my all-time favourite writers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe. The villains created by the author would also sit very well in a Poe horror story - the three Aunts that turn into the flesh-eating raven-like monsters are evil personified, and once they morph into these awful creatures and attack their victims the author is not afraid to continue with the detailed descriptive writing. There is certainly no attempt to patronise his audience by sanitising these scenes; they are gory and will keep the hearts of horror fans beating rapidly. Whatsmore, unlike some horror authors, Mr Mayhew doesn't go over the top by including too many of these gory moments - just enough to keep the tension at explosive levels whenever the Ghuls appear. Unfortunately for the story's main characters the Ghuls are not the author's only despicable and terrifying creation - just wait until they stumble across Lorenzo's Incredible Circus!!!
On the subject of characters, Mr Mayhew has also excelled in this area too. Josie and Alfie are entirely believable; in fact, Mr Mayhew seems to go to great lengths to make them appear to be as ordinary as possible. Josie is described as being plain, with "dull brown" eyes and her brother "small and pinched-looking". As in the majority of these types of stories there is also a host of colourful secondary characters who come and go throughout the book; every one of these is believable, and they all help the story progress in their own little way.
Mr Mayhew has since written the equally fabulous The Demon Collector and I believe he plans to write one more book set in this era - if it is even half as good as Mortlock and The Demon Collector then he will surely earn a thoroughly deserved place in the pantheon of childrens' horror fiction.