Unmarked Graves by Shaun Hutson
|Unmarked Graves by Shaun Hutson|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A TV journalist researching racial tension in a quiet English town finds zombies on the prowl. There is blood. Fans approve.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: October 2008|
This horror book certainly raises questions. How can the author so successfully manage to tie in the initial threads into what boils down to a zombie novel?
A tall, charismatic African political leader (or terrorist, depending on whose side you're on) leaves the scene of a woman he has butchered to death in a gruesome little episode, and flees across the continent as any emigrant would. An emigrant with armed bodyguards willing to take any amount of bullets, that is.
In London, a coloured TV journalist is watching the outcome of an armed siege with his colleagues. In the typically atypical suburban house, a black junkie is keeping his wife and children hostage. The journalist, intent on divisive series regarding cross-colour crime, is sure he's on to something.
He certainly is, when we visit, with his help, the town of Darworth, where some racist thugs are turning on the run-down council tower blocks and their recently arrived African refugee populations.
I can't go further in tying those strands up, but suffice to say this book will certainly go down in Shaun Hutson's fans as 'the race novel'. It is very interesting to read of the racists, who despite being clearly baddies, are not the greatest of evils in the book. Also, they're rounded characters, with their leader interested in the arrival of the TV man, for manipulation purposes, and with a strong sense of (misguided?) revenge.
As for the siege, well, I think that is a bit of a loose end for the book - and right at the beginning as well. While it ends in a nice quick line in gore - and there are several moments of gore throughout the book, as fans would only demand - there is no real reason for it to be there. I think the character of Nick Pearson and his TV career could have been introduced through something more compactly intertwined with the other events - once this episode is over it is obvious it has little bearing on the rest of the book and is something of a misnomer.
However there is no real reason to be disappointed with our start. The three- to six-page long chapters fly by, and quite soon we're having to acknowledge that we're very intrigued by the scenario. The book is only quite a slender one, but there is still scope for the book to be a lot less compelling. The peril, horror, and police thriller that forms a lot of the book's bulk are all balanced in finely judged ways, and horror fans need never doubt their author's sensibilities. While he will draw his characters into peril, only to cut away to another story strand, he will quite soon return to complete the scene of whatever terrible end he has in mind.
And now that we mention terrible ends... Of course I would never expect Hutson to wrap up the racial tension elements of his story, I can't remember any book ending with such a blasé attitude regarding major plot threads, and the 'is this really the end?' conclusion is a cop-out that makes no real sense.
Until then I was enjoying a very gruesome little horror book, and enjoying the fact that the settings were getting away from all the stereotypes of the genre, and engaging in a sensible way with a topical issue of note. The racism side of things is not just tacked on, either - it and the horror scenes and thriller they cause all gel together in a very good match. They just deserved to have a meaty ending to match the rest of the book, and not the damp squib they get.
I would still recommend this book to anyone with an interest in horror, as I am sure the shocks and gore will be appreciated, especially given their social setting. My thanks go to the publishers for sending the Bookbag a copy to review.
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