BOOK REVIEW: STRANGERS / AUTHOR: DAVID MOODY / PUBLISHER: INFECTED BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
After the underwhelming success of his debut novel, author David Moody took the self-publishing route. Years later, after setting up his own publishing company, he’s enjoyed multiple successes. 2014 sees the release of his latest novel, Strangers. Moody, a literary punk, is well and truly gobbing on the old guard.
Strangers follows a family moving up from Redditch to Thussock, in Northern Scotland, a town caught between antiquity and the modern. Moody captures a side of Scotland with all the grim fascination of Ian Rankin, and the frustration of living in a deprived area.
Moody has fun with audience expectation, with Strangers biding its time as a crime novel before revealing its true colours: a nasty, well-crafted body horror. While functioning as a zombie story, there’s plenty of soap opera and parts feeling like they’ve been nicked from The Bill. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted, with feverish and pornographic descriptions of dead bodies and genital mutilation.
The irritating frequency of ellipses marks Moody out as an amateur, which couldn’t be further from the truth, but a ruthless editor might be in order for the next novel. Aside from the frequent use of the words ‘bloody’ and ‘bugger’ the speech is well crafted, capturing the Scottish accent and the Midlands flourishes. His description is sparse, often as haunting as the mountains in Thussock’s distance.
The pacing is commendable, with the plot unfolding in speech rather than whacking you round the head with exposition. The story is pushed along by the large crop of characters, with Michelle being a particular highlight. Drenched in all the touchstones of family intricacies, and while it often touches on the farcical, you can’t say that you haven’t thought the same thing gathered around your own table at Christmas.
Moody has his ear to the ground, with an up-to-the-minute plot capturing the crippling social problems of Scotland, the judicial system, and the impact of fracking. His own social and political leanings can be gleaned between the lines, though subtle.
Despite being under 300 pages, it’s a slow-burner, hitting its stride by the last third, with the unfurling of the supernatural. Moody’s love of all things horror is obvious, proudly displaying his influences, with The Wicker Man, The Thing and Shivers all namechecked, and by mixing those three up you get a pretty decent picture of Strangers.
With plenty in common with his acclaimed Autumn series, Moody fans old and new will be chalking this one up as one of their favourite reads of 2014. For all its flaws, Strangers is a well-paced, well-constructed slice of modern British horror. It might well be one for The Bad Sex Award, but for the discerning reader of nasty novels, this is a must.
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