‘The Creeper’ is a gothic horror novel from A.M. Shine, an Irish writer with a masters degree in history who turned to writing to make a living. The main character is Ben French who has a masters degree in history but gets very little work related to it because there are more graduates than there are graduate jobs.
Young people please note. Instead, Ben is trapped in the world of retail shops and hates it. He has very little money and wants more, mainly because of an infant daughter from a one-night stand to whom he would like to give better support.
Salvation appears in the form of Doctor Alec Sparling, a rich oddball who recruits Ben and an archaeologist named Chloe Coogan for a special project. Ben has some experience interviewing people in remote communities to collect old folk tales. Sparling wants him to go to the village of Tir Mallacht, which has been isolated for two centuries and talk to the locals. There is no road to the village, the census has forgotten it, the church is deconsecrated and abandoned long since and the locals live in the past. Obviously, there is no mobile phone signal out there but they have a legend of the creeper.
The story is mostly told from Ben’s point of view but switches now and then to that of his employer, Doctor Sparling, an interesting character who won’t go out after dark and lives in an isolated house with very strong shutters on the windows. Ben is a likeable chap who doesn’t think much of himself. Chloe is a lovely girl companion, more competent at the outdoors stuff than him, slogging through mud and reading maps to find the village, setting up a tent and so on. Ben is a city boy. Oddly, perhaps, there is no hint of romance between them even when the danger level gets extreme.
Mister Shine writes beautifully with sensory descriptions that make you feel as if you are there with the characters in a very real place. He piles on the similes, maybe a little too much, but they are apt if not amusing in the style of Chandler or Lansdale. That would break the mood. The shocks are few for most of the book but the sense of menace builds up and Ben’s healthy scepticism about the supernatural is a nice touch. The conclusion is sufficiently horrific for any fan. A bit too gruesome for me, frankly, but I’m a wimp.
‘The Creeper’ is a masterfully written novel of gothic horror that will draw you slowly into a scary, claustrophobic world cut off from our own and make it believable for just a little while. I enjoyed reading it for both the prose style and the story but it’s not for the fainthearted. On the other hand, the fainthearted don’t read horror. Enjoy.
(pub: Head of Zeus, 2022. 320 page hardback. Price: £16.99 (UK). ISBN : 978-1-80110-217-9)
check out website: www.headofzeus.com