Category Archives: Horror

A launch in the dark

I didn’t notice the flamingos in Santa hats as I arrived. Maybe they turned up while I was inside Dunblane library on Thursday evening helping launch Alex Nye’s new book Darker Ends? There would have been room for them as well, but only just. I rarely see libraries this full, so it made for a nice change.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Despite it being a dark and rainy night, and despite Dunblane deciding to have its Christmas market on the very same evening, people flooded to the library. It was Alex’s third launch (for this book), after two large affairs in Edinburgh and Glasgow. And I believe she was planning yet another for the other Dunblane library yesterday.

There’s no stopping some people.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

After wine and crisps and things, and a kind of library quiz for the younger ones, we were plunged into darkness. I’d ‘reserved’ a comfortable seat early on, but many sat on the floor. They were mostly the sort of age where you can sit on the floor. There were a few beanbags as well.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Alex talked about the iceberg of writing. At book festivals you see only the tip of the [author] iceberg, the success and the smiles and everything. Then there is all the bad stuff, the lack of confidence and the uncertainty, the hard work. She knew from a very early age that she wanted to be a writer, and she had a supportive family. But unlike with other jobs where it’s clear what route you have to take to get there, it’s not quite as simple for the wannabe author.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

She won a writing competition at 16 with a story titled A Mould of Flesh, and she still has the book it was printed in. Alex came to Edinburgh, found she loved Scottish history, and wrote a novel about Mary Queen of Scots, which no one wanted. (It is about to become her fourth published book, after Darker Ends.) After some travelling, she returned to Scotland, living on Sheriffmuir, which is where she set her first two novels, Chill and Shiver.

Accompanied by spooky sound effects, Alex talked about the inspiration for Darker Ends, and she read us a couple of excerpts, finishing just as Rory lost his balance in the window…

Alex does a good line in accompanying photos, from childhood pictures of her siblings and the dogs, to the photograph of her and her husband in Glencoe when she’d just discovered the setting for Darker Ends. (Although, if you ask me, they looked more like Daniel Craig and Judi Dench.)

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

Her publisher, Clare Cain, had a table groaning under copies of the book, which sold well, and judging by the happy crowds and the fact that they were able to ‘borrow’ the town’s official fireworks and everything, I’d say it went pretty well.

And the flamingos looked nice.

By the time it was too late I realised that I never took a picture of Alex herself, apart from the one in the dark. So you can have these tired guys instead. They had clearly been overwhelmed by all that reading and needed a rest.

Alex Nye book launch at Dunblane Library

W.A.R.P. – The Forever Man

That FBI. It gets everywhere, including the 17th century. But that explains a lot, actually. And it’s lucky they wear those fetching overalls, with the letters on the back, so you will know it’s them. And there is always one more wormhole through which any combination of characters can fall, to some time other than their own. Quantum foam. Hah.

Yes. So Eoin Colfer thought it’d be more normal to write about time travelling FBI agents than leprechauns. It’s easy peasy getting your head round tunnelling dwarves and foil-clad centaurs, but my head always gets confused when it tries to think about time travel. Like, if so-and-so did this then something would/would not happen. And you mustn’t meet yourself.

Eoin Colfer, The Forever Man

I enjoyed The Forever Man, which is the last instalment of Eoin’s W.A.R.P., the time travel-based witness protection scheme which put people safely in Victorian London. I wasn’t sure I would, as the time travel slipped back to Cromwell’s days – which I’m not keen on – and Riley’s old boss was going to reappear. I’d really hoped to have seen the last of him. But that strange thing happened; where you find yourself almost fond of the baddie, because you go a long way back and familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt.

So – the now unkillable – Garrick is back, and his latest hobby is to burn witches at the stake. And he decides Agent Chevie is a witch. Riley needs to free her, but the trouble is that he and Garrick know each other so well, that it’s almost impossible for one to trick the other. Luckily the FBI has one or two tricks up its sleeves, and not everyone in this witch-hunting village believes that burning witches is a marvellous idea.

This is exciting, and romantic – yes – and funny. It even restored my faith in the FBI.

Eoin; please consult me if you need more timetravelling Swedish bores. Sorry, boars. Or similar. Especially if they are to be called Olaf.

Shetland Noir – the stories

They really went to town with their misused kitchen utensils. I’d say, never encourage a professional killer. They have enough horror to offer as it is.

I would like to say I enjoyed the little leaflet with the top three stories from the Shetland Noir writing competition. But enjoy isn’t quite the word I’d use.

Runners-up Matthew Wright and Marina Marinopoulos went for very bloody scenarios indeed. Kitchen utensils make you think kitchens, and from there it’s not far to food, and… Well, you get the picture.

Whereas winner Helen Grant was more restrained, if only by comparison. She has a gory corpse. She has made ‘good’ use of her kitchen utensil. I’ll say that for her. And I could sort of see where this story must go, which isn’t a bad thing. It built up the suspense quite nicely.

The Beach House, as her story is called, is all about death in a beautiful place. That makes it worse. I can visualise where the house is, and I can see the corpse, even though I’m trying not to. I’ll have to work on unseeing this at some point.


If Helen were to change paths and kill in the adult world from now on, I reckon she’d do it well.

Darker Ends

If you are feeling nervous, and would like to read a book to calm you down, I suggest you don’t choose Alex Nye’s new novel Darker Ends. If, on the other hand, you don’t mind feeling scared as you are transported into the depths of a dark and snowy Glencoe at night, then it might well be just your thing.

Alex Nye, Darker Ends

I liked the book, but rather wished I’d not been reading it when I was reading it. Unless, yes, perhaps there is no safe place in which to read Darker Ends, and in that case…

We meet 14-year-old Maggie and her nine-year-old brother Rory home alone (scream!!) at the ancient inn their parents have just bought in Glencoe.

And now the parents have gone out to do some shopping (honestly!) and they are not returning home, and it’s dark and there is a snowstorm outside and the old inn creaks and groans and the children are feeling increasingly scared,

when a strange man knocks on the door asking for shelter. He’s not their only concern, either. There appears to be a resident ghost upstairs. So between the stranded traveller, the mysterious ghost boy, the weather and being suddenly thrown in with a group of people fleeing for their lives back in 1692 – Massacre of Glencoe – Maggie and Rory have a most eventful night.

Who, or what, will kill them first? And are their parents all right?

Lockwood – The Hollow Boy

All of Chelsea is covered in ghosts, and Lockwood & Co have not been invited to help fight them. All the other agencies are there.

You and I know how unfair that is, and so do Lockwood and his two assistants. They have to persevere with some of the more minor ghostly problems in London, and you and I know how good they are with stuff like that. They only disobey Lockwood’s orders occasionally, risking their lives and making mistakes that could cost people their lives. But on the whole they do well.

Jonathan Stroud, The Hollow Boy

Lucy is particularly keen to try her special abilities to solve the ghosts’ problems, and Lockwood would rather she didn’t. She is getting on better with her dreadful green pal in the jar she carries around, and he in turn has some helpful suggestions for how she could get rid of… Well, I won’t tell you who, but let’s just say Lucy and the boys don’t agree on something of great importance.

Brave and talented though Lucy and Lockwood are, I’m not sure where they would be without George. He is often quiet and always hungry, but generally researches their cases thoroughly, discovering what others have missed or not even bothered to look up in the first place. I have to admit to seeing him in a new light in this third book about our psychic investigators.

Old enemies surface, as do new ghosts, and that person I was referring to above. Chelsea needs saving, and then there is the mystery of Lockwood’s sister.

This is another jolly, thrilling and amusing instalment in the Lockwood saga. I have to admit to panicking towards the end, when it looked like George’s cake-eating was about to take a beating. But I’ve been reassured there are many more ghosts coming my way.

Mr Sparks

‘Well, I didn’t see this coming!’ I thought I knew where Danny Weston was going with his new novel, Mr Sparks. Set in 1919, it’s the story about 12-year-old almost orphaned Owen. He lives with his ghastly aunt at her hotel in Llandudno, when one day a strange man arrives, with even stranger luggage.

It talks. The man is, of course, a ventriloquist. Or is he? As Owen gets closer it appears that the dummy, pardon, Mr Sparks, speaks and thinks on its own. But that’s not possible. Is it?

(I’d say Mr Sparks is as real as, erm, Danny Weston. And we all know him, don’t we?)

Danny Weston, Mr Sparks

Soon this little horror story has Owen and Mr Sparks in a closer relationship than the boy had imagined possible. Who is in control?

It’s not as scary as I had been afraid. It’s more creepy. And then it didn’t go in quite the direction I’d imagined. And then it looked fairly promising, all set for a happy-ish ending, and then, well, maybe it didn’t. I know how it ends. As long as that Danny Weston doesn’t do anything I don’t want him to do!

You hear me?

I should probably disclose that Danny has been kind enough to dedicate Mr Sparks to me (and someone else, whom I shall ignore for the moment), which is, well, nice. It was clever of him to let Owen live in Llandudno, that pearl of seaside resorts. Although we might have to have a little chat about the pier at some point.

But that’s not why I say this is a good book. Actually, I haven’t said that yet.

It’s a good book! Even without the dedication. Creepily good, even.

The Girl Who Broke the Rules

Marnie Riches’ ‘Girl’ really does break rules. A lot. The first novel was exceptionally good. So is this one, as long as I can manage not to dwell on the actual murders in too much detail. They are far more gruesome than those bodies blown to bits in The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. Proceed with caution. And do keep in mind that George swears a lot, comes from a rough background, and is actually still only 24 years old.

She’s the most fantastic of heroines. I’d like her to be more sensible occasionally, but then she’d not be the George McKenzie we love.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Broke the Rules

In Amsterdam immigrant women are being murdered in a way I’d rather not describe here. And van den Bergen is unwell, he misses George, and he needs her to come and help solve this case. But she’s busy, and can’t get permission to travel, and she misses him too, and is troubled by her – lack of – feelings for her boyfriend.

As in the first book, aspects of George’s life in England have a bearing on the Amsterdam murders. It’s simply that she has a rich background to draw from, and it’s hard to work out what and who. If there’s a pervert out there, George will know him.

Very cliffhangery sort of cliffhanger at the end. There will be a third book. I’d rather not speculate on how Marnie will kill her victims in that one.

(Buy the ebook here.)