My mother always used to tell me that the best things came in small packages. If that is true then The Dead Ways by Christopher Edge is a perfect example of this maxim. At a mere 208 pages it weighs in way below most horror stories for the 11+ age group, but even so it still packs quite a punch.
Main character Scott is the son of a civil servant who is very much involved in a project known as the Greening of the Roads, whereby the government plans to close down a number of the country's motorways and replace them with environmentally railways. However, there is much more to this new initiative than meets the eye and Scott soon finds his life changing in ways he never would have predicted, first through a failed kidnap attempt and then when his father is discovered dead, apparently having committed suicide.
Alongside Scott's story is that of Jason, a Detective Inspector in the police force. Whilst travelling home one night Jason encounters what can only be described as a ghostly apparition; a dark hooded figure that passes through the metal walls of his car and attacks him so that "the breath was crushed from his body as a soul-searing agony rushed through his veins". Unfortunately he calls for back-up and from that moment on his career would appear to be on something of a decline.
Eventually the paths of these two main characters cross and they find themselves up to their necks in a conspiracy that stretches right to the roots of the government, with a super-creepy cult trying to open the Dead Ways of the book's title - an event that would have disastrous consequences for everyone.
This is not your everyday zombie book (of which there are many on the market at the moment). In fact, although the dead do rise I did not associate them at all with the zombies that seem to be flavour of the month in kids' and YA books at the moment. I think in my mind I had them down as more ghostly than zombie-like, but they are none the less scary for it. There is also not a great deal of gore within the story, and again I think this adds to the creep factor of the book. Unlike most zombie books though it is not the zombies themselves that are the most creepy - this honour must go to the cult members. And believe me, they are nasty.
This is the first book in a series and as such although the initial storyline is concluded to a degree there are a lot of questions left unanswered. I guess you could liken it to Darren Shan's Cirque Du Freak in this respect - a short first book to set up the characters and story, with (hopefully) many more books to follow. I am definitely keen to see how Christopher Edge develops his story in the sequel, although I do not yet have any information on when this might be published.