“This is a sometimes uncomfortable book in the best ways, and its climax is satisfyingly brutal, ghostly and surprising.”
M R Carey is probably best known for writing a number of successful comics (including an excellent adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere) and the breakout novel The Girl with All the Gifts. His new novel, Fellside, is the story of Jess Moulson, an ex heroin addict burned in a terrible flat fire in which a young boy also died, and it joins the small but select group of the supernatural prison story. It presents initially as a crime thriller, the story revolving around whether Jess is actually responsible (as the courts find her) guilty of the murder of her neighbour but soon veers sideways into a supernatural whodunit, with the ghost of the dead boy directing Jess to find his real killer and gain him some justice. Along the way we encounter a varied cast list of prisoners, guards and an oddly sympathetic but weak prison doctor. Carey is good at characterisation, and does well to prevent the prison scenes becoming reminiscent of a ghost-added version of Prisoner Cell Block H, although there are sometimes moments where the descriptions of the prison (the titular Fellside)’s dark underbelly have a ‘read it all before’ vibe, although it’s never strong enough to derail the book’s power. Carey’s also excellent at writing violence, both the act itself and the impact it has and the fear it creates, and the threat of aggression and injury is threaded throughout the narrative like a hovering fist. This is a sometimes uncomfortable book in the best ways, and its climax is satisfyingly brutal, ghostly and surprising.
As an audiobook, Fellside works well. Carey’s style (never over-written, fast-moving and deceptively light) lends itself well to being read, and Finty Williams is an excellent narrator. She creates various character voices (including males) with a delicate touch, never over-emphasising accents so that each individual is recognisable but never caricatured. Flawed heroine Jess Moulson, in particular, is well-performed, with Williams giving her real depth and personality. The audiobook doesn’t overstay its welcome, coming in at around fifteen and a half hours, and there are far worse ways you could spend these hours than listening to this creepy, occasionally wince-inducing book. Recommended.
SIMON KURT UNSWORTH
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Length: 15 hrs 35 mins
Release Date: 5 April 2016
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