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2.9 out of 5 stars13
2.9 out of 5 stars
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on 7 June 2010
F.G.Cottam is a hugely talented writer, and 'House of Lost Souls' was one of the scariest horror novels that I've read over the last decade. For this reason, out of a sense of loyalty, I struggled to the end of this increasingly disappointing book, with its ghastly gung-ho hero (sorry, I didn't warm to Mark Hunter at all), its turgid passages of pointless description and unconvincing dialogue, gruesome moments that made me laugh out loud for all the wrong reasons, to its "with one bound we were all free" conclusion. But I don't blame the author, who has some great ideas in this book, (although they need developing), I blame the publishers, who have rushed this book out before it was ready. With another year's work, and some hard editing, particularly where the narrative structure is concerned, (why on earth, for example, does Mark go all the way to the Tyrol, and in a separate incident all the way to London, to confront the sorceress, only to achieve zilch and then come home again?) this could have been a really good book.
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on 16 April 2012
I have greatly enjoyed F G Cottam's menacing and descriptive tales of the supernatural. The first four that I read were extremely competent examples of the horror genre but were able to transcend the label of horror fiction due to their superb descriptions of locations, the gradual build-up of suspense, the interesting and usually believable characters and the epilogue at the end of each book which explained what happened after the denouement of the tale.
This book which was published in 2009 is not of the high standard of Cottam's other work; the tale is a mish-mash of contrived coincidences and far too much is unexplained which is not an accusation that could be levelled at his previous books.
The SAS-type hero is a stereotype, the locations are not described to the same standard as the wonderful Lambeth locales are in other books and the only times that the story comes to life are in the snowy scenes in Scotland where one is instantly transported as the scenery is so clearly related.
Too much does not add-up. South London appears to be a war-zone which is never satisfactorily explained or resolved although there is vague mention of a Coalition Government (which obviously predated the actual one!), a character who is a healer is able to 'think' a vicious dog a distance of many miles away and bury it two metres down under a shingle beach - all by the power of thought, and the main villainess and her principal adversary are caricatures who may be human but could equally be alien or some sort of Highlander character who are almost immortal and can survive being shot pointblank in the head in an assassination technique. They also consort with wolves dressed in human clothing and the principal 'baddie' tried to 'tilt the world' and was successful in the Nazi era and seemed to be about to do the same in post-Millennium Britain but was banished by the throw of a dice. All very peculiar as she had exceptional mental and demonic powers but was sent away to an unspecified location for an unexplained length of time.
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on 4 May 2010
I've become a serial reader of Cottam's brand of horror, despite it not really being a genre I especially enjoy.
His first book, The House of lost Souls was very scary, not something to be read either on your own or late at night. His second novel Dark Echo was more of the same but a little less creepy, the constant threat of something awful lurking rather than the actual presence of evil.
This new book is more of a roller coaster ride thriller. The characters are well drawn and believable, and the book rattles along through a series of set piece action sequences.
Highly enjoyable, but different in tone from his first two novels.
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on 5 January 2013
This is the third f g cottam book i read and the best so far.Really compelling story and a very unusual twist on the theme of innocent woman persecuted by puritans because she did not comply to woman doormat stereotype and a twist that gives a lift to the story and makes you want to know what the descendant of the said witch will do to help her friends. Love both of the villains in the book and could not put book down
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on 29 June 2010
Ok, I never thought it was going to be a serious literary classic. And it did started well. Adam Hunter, aged 10, is suffering from nightmares, and his father Mark enlists the help of the local doctor, Elizabeth Bancroft, to treat him. But Mark knows that the real source of his son's affliction is a curse he incurred on a failed mission a decade back in his SAS career. As we flash back to the origins of the curse, the horror has a silly edge from a start - zombie dogs and self-mutilation which seemed to me anatomically unlikely, if not impossible. But mixed with the hardness of the soldiers and the rationality of military language, it had a creepy edge. I'll admit to sleeping with the hall light on the night I started reading.

But after that, the silliness quota was upped significantly. I think Mr Cottam was under the impression that the more 'horror' elements you include in a novel, the scarier it will be. So, in addition to zombie dogs, we end up with witches, another type of zombie (headless), werewolves, and Nazis. Nazi werewolves, in fact. I can only think that the omission of vampires was a careless oversight.

Even after all that, I still wanted to know how it would all end: the plot had gripped me. It ended rushed, unsatisfying, with more loose ends than a charity shop jumper. I won't spoil the ending for you: it does that for itself. I'll just say that after all the build up, it was all too easy for the main characters to resolve. Except that there were a lot of things they didn't resolve, which would have left me a gibbering wreck of fear (unable to sleep with or without the light on), but apparently weren't troubling enough to prevent the protagonists from living happily ever after.
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on 10 February 2013
Creepy, exciting, well written, great characters... everything you need to scare your socks off on a howling windy winters night...enjoy !!
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on 4 February 2010
F.G Cottam's progress from his debut with The House of Lost Souls to the excellent Dark Echo promised much when I picked up his latest novel, The Magdalena Curse. I was somewhat disappointed, however, as this lacked much of the spark and inventiveness of those earlier books.

Mark Hunter is a retired Special Forces officer, widowed when his wife and daughter died in an accident, and now living in Scotland with his ten-year-old son, Adam. Adam is something of a prodigy and, more importantly for our story, cursed, as a result of what happened on one of Mark's missions in central America ten years ago.

Mark has enlisted Elizabeth Bancroft, thirty-four year old local GP, called in by Mark to try and treat his son and rid him of the curse, which fact he initially and unsurprisingly omits to mention to Miss Bancroft.

The curse is only now maturing and Mark has to move quickly if he is to save his son. The fast-paced story unfolds as Mark, Adam and Elizabeth, each in their own way, try to lift the curse.

I found it a bit of a confused mix. We are presented with black magic and the occult, whose cause, in standard Cottam style, is rooted in the 1930s. Later we get some white magic, local hostility to the good doctor and, meshed in with it all, a lot of running around to no obvious purpose.

Some passages, like Mark's recounting of his mission, are straightforward and quite gripping. But elsewhere so much is included but left unexplained. The darker characters are given scant background and the nature of their powers is not elaborated upon. This is important, because later on we are asked to accept that those powers can be overcome, but again we are given no reasoning as to how this is possible. The ending, wow, that is rushed through on the flimsiest material imaginable. For a novel whose premise is "don't believe anything you are told" that was unbelievably poor.

Unlike the previous two novels, Mark Hunter, the central "normal" person, is ultimately rendered inconsequential as the story unfolds and simply ends up as a victim whilst it is others who resolve matters.

I get the impression that this was rushed through, perhaps that was publisher pressure to capitalise on the earlier successes. F.G. can definitely write a spooky tale but we don't need every device ever constructed for scary stories all jumbled into the one.

Readable, but the next novel must improve on this.
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on 6 November 2015
I love all of FG Cottam's writing that I have read so far but I think that this has been my favourite. The story itself is really clever and characters are particularly well drawn. I would recommend it to anyone who loves good quality supernatural themes.
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on 17 August 2014
I so wanted to enjoy this as much as I liked The House of Lost Souls but I just ended feeling led down the garden path. When I got to then end confrontation I had to read it several times as I couldn't quite believe what was happening. The author has some amazing ideas and manages to build a good atmosphere but like others have said too much was left open with this one and it felt untidy and at times rather silly. To take your readers on an amazing journey you need to come up with an ending that is fitting to the build-up of that journey and it also needs to be appropriate to the characters you have created. I still want to read others by this author and I hope this one was just down to a rush job and the publisher not doing what it should.
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on 11 June 2013
Once again characters sound like robots when talking, our hero is the stereo typical SAS man and the plot and actions of the hero make no sense at all.
I persevered to the finish for closure but found the ending just as rushed as his other books but unlike the other books I found no redeeming features.
Definitely one to avoid and had I read this book first, I would have avoided all his other books.
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