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Book Review: Strangers by David Moody

“Dark, disturbing and visceral.”

Strangers

After releasing his superb Autumn novel back in 2001 David Moody became known as the premier British zombie writer, which is no bad thing given his innovative and intelligent take on the genre, but as he’s been keen to display in the last few years, there’s much more to Moody than his quintet of undead novels (sextet if you include his accompanying short story collection Autumn: The Human Condition set in the same universe).

Though he has recently revisited the genre, first with Joe & Me which was the first chapbook published by This Is Horror and a very effective coda to the Autumn series, and latterly with his eBook novellas Isolation and The Cost of Living (collected in a paperback edition called The Last of the Living) which are his last word on the subject for the foreseeable future, he has steadily been making a name for himself as what Harlan Ellison might describe as a purveyor of speculative fiction.

His bold and visceral Hater trilogy attracted the attention of none other than Guillermo Del Toro, and his recent overhauls of Trust and Straight To You, a pair of previously self-published novels that are more science fiction than horror, proved that reviews that have mentioned Moody in the same breath as Stephen King and John Wyndham are absolutely on the money.

His latest release, Strangers, is set in the small Scottish town of Thussock, where a series of murders have rocked the local community. Mutilated, defiled bodies are piling up with terrifying speed with no apparent motives for the savage killings or links between any of the victims. In fact the only thing they have in common is that they began shortly after Scott Griffiths and his family arrived in town.

As with Moody’s previous protagonists, Scott Griffiths isn’t your typical clean cut hero who will have your eyes rolling as he works everything out. Instead, and this is where the author excels, he is a rather unpleasant, obnoxious bully who you really want to hate, but there’s something in the way that he’s written that finds you empathising with him, despite his methods of trying to protect his family being at times dubious and occasionally even appalling.

The rest of the cast are equally well sculpted, particularly Griffith’s wife Michelle who comes across as a woman conflicted between protecting and supporting the man she loves and the father of their young son despite his dark past, and wanting the best for her two teenage daughters from her first marriage who see through Scott and the façade he puts on for the rest of the world.

Without giving too much away, particularly as Moody addresses the novel’s influences head on in conversations between his characters, Strangers channels classic horror fare like John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s Shivers to craft a superbly chilling tale of terrible things happening to an isolated village, and the ensuing paranoia and fear that turns it into a highly explosive powder keg.

Survivors is easily Moody’s best work to date, a dark, disturbing and visceral book that gives him a legitimate claim to the title of Britain’s Best Living Horror Author that was left vacant by James Herbert’s untimely death last year.

RICHARD COSGROVE

Publisher: Infected Books
Paperback (280pp)
Release date: 11 November 2014

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