Book Review: Monolith by Shaun Hutson

“An amalgamation of horror and police-procedural, with a little Jewish mythology tossed in for good measure, there is much fun to be had here.”

81L6bMy9gQL._SL1500_Shaun Hutson returns with his first original novel in more than five years after penning a trio of modern Hammer novelisations (Twins of Evil, X the Unknown, The Revenge of Frankenstein).

Jessica Anderson is a journalist looking for her next big story when she stumbles upon the Crystal Tower, a soon-to-be-unveiled forty-three storey building that has claimed the lives of more than seventy workers during its construction. The reclusive Russian owner of the building, Andrei Voronov (“so loaded he makes Abramovich look like a charity case”), is a little difficult to get hold of, as are most recluses, and the Metropolitan Police have put the unusually high death-count down to nothing more than ineluctable accidents, the likes of which are to be expected during the construction of such a monumental structure.

With the help of an old newspaper colleague, Alex Hadley, and Mark “Spike” Paxton, a man who spends his nights listening to police and emergency broadcasts before selling the juicy accidents and crimes to the media, Jessica takes it upon herself to get to the bottom of the Crystal Tower’s mysterious deaths, and it’s a good job she does, for there’s certainly something incongruous going on.

The titular Monolith of course refers to the tower, a building that shouldn’t, according to the London public, have ever been built; and if the introverted Voronov hadn’t crossed the Head of the Development Committee’s palm with gold, probably wouldn’t have. When Voronov’s application for a second hotel in London is declined, terrible things begin to happen to those opposing him, and it is then that Jessica begins to suspect that something far worse than she ever could have imagined is going on.

The book skips back and forth between 1933 and present-day in order to further explain the origin of the evils lurking within the Crystal Tower, and it does so with aplomb, offering just a snippet of useful information at a time before returning to Jessica’s exploits in the here and now.

Monolith’s primary characters are suitably fleshed out, although – as one might expect from a Shaun Hutson novel – those given one or two pages before being unceremoniously butchered are somewhat forgettable, and that’s fine; it is what they are there for. The scenes of gore are few and far between, something that did come as quite a surprise. In a recent magazine interview, Hutson said, “Subtlety is something I’ve never been accused of,” and yet there is something incredibly subtle about Monolith. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of bloody carnage; there are. It’s that when they arrive, and you’ve been waiting patiently for fifty or so pages for a death, you expect there to be a little more, something that Hutson of old would have delighted in delivering.

Despite the lack of overblown gore and violence one might have anticipated, Monolith is still an extremely enjoyable read. An amalgamation of horror and police-procedural, with a little Jewish mythology tossed in for good measure, there is much fun to be had here.

The special edition paperback, limited to only 1500 copies worldwide, also features an exclusive introduction from Shaun Hutson, and a rather festive and enjoyable short story not available in other editions entitled ‘Jingle Bells’.

ADAM MILLARD

Publisher: Caffeine Nights Publishing
Special Edition Paperback (368pp)
Release Date: 2 April 2015

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