‘May just rank as the best single piece of work the author has produced.’
The Bones of You is Gary McMahon’s eighth published novel and whilst all the elements we have come to expect from his work – gritty settings and relatable characters amongst them – are in evidence, there is also an increased level of confidence on show in this short, but accomplished novel, that may just rank as the best single piece of work the author has produced.
Adam Morris takes up residence in a cheap rental home hoping to get his life back on track, and be a father for his daughter to be proud of, after a messy divorce and a past littered with personal and professional mistakes. As strange happenings start to occur in the run-up to Halloween, Adam begins to suspect they are linked to the run-down house next door and, with the help of a mysterious girl called Pru, begins to unearth the history of the place and of Katherine Moffat, a child murderer who committed her crimes in that very house. As the day of Halloween approaches revelations come to light and it becomes apparent that Adam’s daughter Jessica may be in danger, something that Adam will stop at nothing to avoid.
Aside from a slightly perfunctory expositional scene in a car between the main character and his potential love interest, McMahon drops hints and allusions subtly into the narrative as to the history of Little Miss Moffat and her Radiant Children, trusting the reader to glean the required details whilst keeping the focus on Adam Morris. This is, after all, his story and not that of the dead killer from the abandoned house next door. This narrative choice allows the reader to experience events along with Adam and to glean the information at the same pace, aiding the build-up of suspense and a sense of peril for the well-being of Adam and Jessica.
The Bones of You draws comparison with the author’s 2008 debut novel Rain Dogs, as both feature men estranged from their families and hoping to put their past indiscretions behind them to forge a better future. However, the experience and knowledge gained over the six books in-between mean that the story here is by far the more accomplished work. McMahon displays a confidence in his narrative and prose that allows the story to unfold at its own pace whilst trusting the strength of his imagery to create the right sense of unease without needing to over-emphasise the thematic concerns through repetition which was a weakness in the former novel.
Gary McMahon has long been one of the great proponents of the horror story in its short form, but it has been fascinating to see him stretching out to the longer form with the Concrete Grove Trilogy and The Bones of You in particular showing that he has become a more accomplished writer with each novel, earning his place amongst the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Adam Nevill, Conrad Williams and Tim Lebbon as must-reads of the British horror scene. There is a feeling of momentum to his career that suggests the magnum opus of his fiction, a truly epic novel to rival such horror standard-bearers as The Stand and Swan Song, may not be too far over the horizon.
Publisher: Earthling Publications
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