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Beyond Here Lies Nothing by Gary McMahon

Beyond Here Lies NothingPublisher: Solaris
Paperback (352pp)

Beyond Here Lies Nothing, the concluding part of Gary McMahon’s Concrete Grove trilogy, maintains all the qualities which made the previous two entries compelling reads. It also provides an intriguing ending, leaving the reader with a sense of mouth-watering anticipation that more stories about the mysterious estate at the centre of events may be forthcoming.

Once again the narrative focuses on a new set of protagonists, with some of the main characters and occurrences from previous books being mentioned in passing. This is a technique that works well in establishing the larger scope of events and making the Concrete Grove itself the connective force linking the three volumes. On the other hand, there’s a consequent lessening of the emotional connection the reader has with the new characters, as they have to get to know them from scratch.

This time around the story focuses on Marc Price, a journalist returning to the Grove for the funeral of an elderly resident who was assisting him in researching a book about the ‘Northumberland Poltergeist’, a notorious case referencing Captain Clickety. During the course of the funeral Marc meets, and commences a relationship with, the emotionally damaged Abby whose daughter, Tessa, was one of four girls who’d disappeared from the estate five years previously, and who had subsequently been dubbed the ‘Gone Away Girls’ . The third main character to feature is DS Craig Royle, the investigating officer in the missing girls case, whose obsessive interest is re-awakened when a strange scarecrow is left at the family home of the first of the girls to go missing. Any hopes that the scarecrow is a heartless prank are extinguished when a photo it has in place of a face is revealed to be of the missing girl and it appears to have been taken post-mortem.

As mentioned, several characters from The Concrete Grove and Silent Voices make return appearances: some, such as Tom Stains, have minor cameos that give an idea of what has become of them, whilst in the case of Erik Best he moves from a bit-part character to quite a significant one this time around, even offering a view of, and reaction to, what the Grove really is. There’s even a surprise re-appearance which adds a further monstrous aspect to events.

By and large this is a more unsettling and suspenseful outing than the previous two instalments, with McMahon dialling up the tension with sublime craft. Two scenes in particular will bring the goose bumps to your arms: Marc discovers two strange rooms in the home of his recently deceased friend, and Abby performs a strange summoning ritual in a less-than-conscious state. That’s not to say that McMahon shies away from showing the more visceral horrors; indeed the fate that befalls a colleague of DS Royle is the equal of anything depicted in the other volumes, such as the Hummingbird scene in Silent Voices or Hailey’s dream sequence in The Concrete Grove.

Beyond Here Lies Nothing provides both a satisfying climax to its own narrative and wraps up many of the threads which wove through the trilogy as a whole. The reader is also left with the tantalising prospect that the Concrete Grove has many more stories to tell. It’s to be hoped that Gary McMahon decides to unleash them on his fans, who will be more than eager to read them after the triumph that has been The Concrete Grove trilogy.

ROSS WARREN

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