*Disclaimer – I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Clive hopped out of the biting mid-night rain into a growling BMW. He was such a broad, thug of a man it almost toppled over when he slammed the door shut and shifted in his leather seat. He was not happy.
“I don’t know if I can do this, Mick,” he huffed, fiddling with the window winder.
“Shut up,” Mick growled back, with a cockney twang so sharp it threatened to crack the windows. “One plug and it’s over.”
Mick was half Clive’s size but had dark eyes that were twice as menacing. He sat statuesque under a trilby hat with skinny arms folded. Gaze locked on the Eastern side of a large Victorian house. The storm leapt out of the surrounding woodlands and buffeted it with murky waves of air and water, and its white paint work absorbed the storm’s aggression. The resulting rot and black mould fortified its foundations.
Clive laughed. “Oh? One plug and it’s over? That’s all, is it? It’ll take more than that to butter Charlie fucking Blue, mate.”
Mick scowled at him and Clive turned up his trench coat collar. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“Then grow up. Or you too busy entertaining the painters?”
Clive could barely look at the house, sat centre stage in its decrepit forest clearing, overrun with weeds. The rain cut over the car’s headlights and cast it in a downy glow. After the week they’d had, Clive sympathised with it. The house mirrored his face, which was struggling to heal from a week’s worth of violence.
“Well, this ain’t a regular job, is it,” Clive said. “Otherwise we’d be in that house by now, either killing him or him killing us.”
Set in 1971 London, Shells follows the story of Joe, a grumbling cockney detective tasked with recapturing a prolific mass murderer who – quite incomprehensibly – has escaped from police custody. Haunted by the death of his partner a year prior and unwilling to let old vendettas die, Joe brings his past with him, muddying a case that veers into the ostensibly supernatural. At its core, Shells is also a love letter to three of Radburn’s favourite cinematic tropes: Film Noir, Shocking Cinema/Video Nasties, and the Nouvelle Vague.
Shells is a gritty and dark crime novel that does not hold back on the gore or the ambiguity of it’s killer, the infamous Charlie Blue. Is he a demon possessed superhuman? Or has his blood soaked and mythical reputation simply created an image where incredible occurrences are easily believed when he is involved? As well as this masked psychopath, we have our down trodden hero, the drunk and bedraggled detective Joe, who’s nursing a shredded heart and still recovering from the death of his partner, the guilt of which is heavier than Charlie Blue’s claw hammer. But Shells is not all doom and gloom. To cut through the dark tension we also have some witty henchmen in the form of Mick and Clive who open the novel by wrestling over a packet of crisps while on a dangerous stakeout. And the religious fanatical warrior who also joins the search for Charlie Blue simply to prove his own might against him.
Shells, a multi layered novel where Radburn easily melds together the dark and seedy underbelly of corrupt city cops, drugs dealers, and gangsters, with the bone chilling threat of an evil serial killer, one who few have encountered and lived to tell the tale. A whopping 600 pages, but one that manages the pacing well and keeps the reader on their toes with just enough enigmatic characters and enticingly mysterious threads, to keep the pages turning.
As Radburn states in his introduction, Shells was inspired by his love for Film Noir, Video Nasties, and Nouvelle Vague, and began life as a set of screenplays. This comes across clearly in the visual descriptions and quick witted dialogue of the novel, not to mention the grey and rain soaked setting of a bleak 1970’s London. An intriguing novel that blends genres, and keeps you guessing, Shells is well worth the word count and one whose characters will stay with you long after the cover is closed.
About the Author –
Joshua Radburn is an independent author of Horror, Science Fiction, and Fantasy. He studied Computer Animation Arts at Bournemouth University and has had stints as a graphic designer, teacher, and personal trainer. He lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with his wife and daughter.
With nowhere else to go, his wife and daughter graciously suffer the intrinsic quirks found in those who struggle with the monotony of day to day life, as Joshua pursues the intangible riches of creation…
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