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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A wooden and slow start, but an atmospheric and chilling climax (eventually!), 16 May 2012
This review is from: Brodmaw Bay (Paperback)
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While I love all things horror, it does seem to me that the genre attracts more than its fair share of mediocre writers and that a true horror gem is rare to find. My search for genuinely frightening and well written horror books is a hopeful one, and I was drawn to Brodmaw Bay on the strength of its reviews.

Having completed the book my opinion is rather confused, but leans towards the negative for some fundamental reasons. The prose is competent in the most technical sense, and a lot of energy and research seems to have gone into building the story, yet the writing lacks passion or zest. I'm very happy reading books that are descriptive and slow paced just so long as the writing is engaging, with some kind of poetry to it, but the first half of Brodmaw Bay is so very drawn out and unyielding that I often found myself giving up and closing the book in sheer boredom. There are very many long and pointless descriptions of the past and mythology of Cornwall, which wouldn't have been a problem if written with vibrancy and dynamism, but the passages read as if spoken by rote by a rather uninspired history teacher.

Then there are the characters. If F.G. Cottam can be forgiven for his plodding prose, he cannot be forgiven for creating a group of the most lacklustre characters I've come across in a good few years of reading. James, Lillian, Jack and Olivia Greer are a family of improbable talents - a highly successful and revered artist, a gifted computer programmer, and a world standard footballer - but not one of them has enough personality to fill a thimble. F.G. Cottam transcribes his characters' laboured thought processes, explains how they're functioning, feeling, behaving, but the reader is forced to take his word for it because none of the assumed personality quirks or peculiarities are perceived by the reader as he observes the characters in their lives. Each character might as well be the same person, just described differently.

As for the dialogue, it is simply bizarre. The people F.G Cottam has invented speak with a preciseness and vocabulary that is technically correct but does not reflect the way anybody would actually talk in real life. The way they interact and behave is equally as unlikely, and some of the decisions they make are just incomprehensible. It makes the characters seem like aliens who are trying to fit in with the natives and not doing a very good job. The Cornish characters in particular have no trace of the colloquial speech or mannerisms that should make them interesting and distinctive. They're no different from the Londoners. It makes me wonder whether F.G. Cottam is of this earth at all.

For me, this poor characterisation is a fatal flaw in Brodmaw Bay's plot, as any fear or tension that I might feel on behalf of the characters is removed by virtue of the fact that I not only don't care about them but can't even imagine they exist. I think that it is essential in any horror book to have a liking and a sympathy for the characters so that the sensation of horror is heightened as you put yourself in their place.

Despite all this, F.G. Cottam does actually have a knack for writing some truly creepy passages. His writing style changes as he describes the dark side of the Bay, and takes on a subtleness and certain beauty that is not seen elsewhere in the writing. I genuinely found some of his descriptions of the church, and what lies within, chilling. I'm glad that I did stick with this book, because I started to properly enjoy it about three quarters of the way through when the Bay's pretty façade begins to fall away to reveal something rotten beneath. I wouldn't call the book's final chapters terrifying, but I definitely found them affecting and atmospheric. I was even quite sad when I turned the final page!

I've not read any of F.G. Cottam's other works, but from what others have said Brodmaw Bay is not his strongest offering. However, as it turned out, I enjoyed it in the end, despite its shortcomings. There is a certain honesty and unpretentiousness in F.G. Cottam's writing which is appealing, and you get the impression that he truly takes pleasure from what he writes. I imagine he got very absorbed in the research side of things and therefore included a bit more historical back-story in the first half of the novel than was necessary or prudent. I can't really recommend Brodmaw Bay, particularly as it is not apparently the author's best work, but if you have read and enjoyed his other books then I imagine you will appreciate this one too, particularly once you've got through the first half.
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