The Clown Service by Guy Adams (book review).

Toby hasn’t been getting along very well in the Secret Intelligence Service, especially as he’s trying to hide the panic attacks and PTSD after his time in the Middle East. Reassignment to the mysterious Section 37 may be an attempt to get him out of the way but Toby soon realises this is a place he could make a difference. With the aging and very peculiar August Shining as his boss (in fact, the only other member of Section 37), Toby finds himself thrust into a world that is far removed from the one he’s used to. This world has time travel, astral projection, zombies and things Toby’s not even sure have names. August Shining is the only man standing between these things and normal civilisation, so when August goes missing, Toby has to learn fast if he’s to save the world from certain destruction.


‘The Clown Service’ is Guy Adams’ first book featuring Section 37, with further books planned for future release. Whilst ultimately you’d have to class this as an urban fantasy, it reads more in the style of a John Le Carré spy novel. The pace is fairly steady, with characters approaching things in a calm and business-like fashion rather than diving from frantic happenings to further chaos. This isn’t unusual in itself, but I’ve found it rare to approach a zombie apocalypse theme in such a measured way and, I have to say, I rather liked it.

Unfortunately, while the slow-ish pace worked nicely on the plot side of things, it made the characterisation feel a bit lacking as we never really got to know much about each of our protagonists and villains. I’d have liked more here to turn it from a fairly good and originally styled urban fantasy into a fully immersive reading experience.

However, having said that, this is the first book in a series and there’s certainly plenty of room for the characters to grow. In addition, the plot tied up nicely for a standalone storyline but left plenty to explore in further books in the series. I find myself wanting to know more about Section 37 and certainly want to find out how August Shining came to be running it. I also feel like there’s more to learn about why Toby ended up there and I’m hoping that will be revealed in due course.

In conclusion, this is a neat little take on the zombie apocalypse/urban fantasy story but, for me, is lacking a little something to take it into the major league. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series because the story was stylishly told, but hope for a little more in terms of characters to make the book complete.

Vinca Russell

August 2014

(pub: Del Rey UK/Ebury. 308 page small hardback. Price: £12.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-091953-14-0

pub: Del Rey UK/Ebury. 308 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 8.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-091953-15-7)

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