by Ramsey Campbell ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 1, 1996
Perhaps Campbell's most inspired suspense novel yet, rivaling Midnight Sun (1990), though purged of horror and the supernatural. Violence is on the rise in Manchester, especially among the young, as the warm, well-spoken Travis family finds when it moves to England from Florida. Even back home, 12-year-old Marshall was bullied and beaten, a nightmare that follows him to Manchester, where his mother, Suzanne, teaches a university course in violence and the cinema. Meantime, Marshall's bookseller dad, Don, is attacked in his car and threatened with a gun by the psychotic Phil Fancy, who escapes. When local newspapers print an unflattering drawing of him, Phil spitefully attacks young Marshall, sprains his ankle when turning on Don and, unable to flee, is arrested. He's given a jail sentence, which is bad news for the Travises, since the Fancy clan, all mad and bad, vow revenge. Then constables raid the Travis home and confiscate their entire US movie collection, from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre to Singin' in the Rain: Films in Britain must be nipped of violence and bear the censors' seal. When two Fancys stomp Don to death, they receive sentences of five years for manslaughter rather than longer sentences for murder: Don had a gun, illegal in Britain. Then Phil's vengeful son Darren abducts Marshall and keeps him prisoner in the Fancy house, planning his death as Suzanne and the police begin searching for the lost boy. What raises the story above rather routine suspense is the poisonously befogged, rapacious Fancy family, its members infected with a smiling brainrot that the reader must experience to believe. To live page after page in the Fancy homestead is to know that you don't have to leave England to find the heart of darkness. A triumph of deadpan (but riotously twisted) dialogue and bizarre characters in a novel that would be hailed as savage satire were it not gussied up as suspense. Deserves daring celluloid.
Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996
Page Count: 384
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996
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