One of the worst things about running a horror website, is the fact that you tend to get caught up in it far too much. To the point where you forget to write reviews for books that haven't been sent in for review. So when i realised that I hadn't posted a review for Gary McMahon's Beyond Here Lies Nothing is was both shocked and a little bit embarrassed. The two previous instalments of this loose linked trilogy were some the best horror novels I had read in a long time, dark, gritty tales of pure urban terror. The Concrete Grove trilogy was shaping up to be one of horror's must read trilogies.
Why anyone would be interested in going to The Concrete Grove, is beyond me. This housing estate with the tower block The Needle at its centre is an estate that is beyond repair. It's a run down, shabby, and dirty place whose residents are just as broken as the estate itself. But Marc Price wants to go there, he is interested in the the Northumberland Poltergeist, an infamous case from the 1970's were a pair of twins were haunted by a malevolent spirit named Captain Clickety.
As he investigates he s slowly drawn to the broken mother whose daughter went missing during the spate of child abductions that the media dubbed "The Gone away Girls". However this brings him to the attention of the missing girls father, who pays Marc a visit one night, and makes it more than clear what will happen is he stays. He is also the sights of DS Royle, a policeman who has never truly closed the book on the missing girls, a man haunted by his past.
But when the Scarecrows start appearing with photographs of the missing girls, and the humming birds return to the grove, we know this is beginning of the end. Something is coming to The Grove.
I always wondered how Gary McMahon was going to finish this series, it's difficult enough finishing up a traditional trilogy, never mind one that is a loosely linked trilogy. He not only has to write a satisfying novel that stands on its own, he has to answer some of the questions raised in the previous two books. Beyond Here Lies Nothing wraps up this series in true McMahon brilliance.
Just as in the the rest of this trilogy, the horror comes not from just the supernatural elements, it also comes from horror of living in the Grove. These are the damaged people, the people whose lives have been harsh and left them broken and at times shattered. They scurry around like rats looking for scraps of happiness in the rubbish dump of their lives.
By choosing to populate each of these novels with a new set of protagonists is a stroke of genius, it keeps each novel feeling fresh, while allowing for a different facet of the Grove to gazed at. With cameos and guest appearances from characters from the other novels, grounds the story in Te Grove's own mythology.
in some ways this trilogy reminded me of Jimmy McGovern's The Street, where each novel is it's own isolated story linked by threads of history, and place.
McMahon's writing works best when he is dealing his characters, this is a writer who gets emotional invested in the people that populate his pages. They are complex, and believable to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if they are all facets of McMahon's own twisted psyche.
In terms of narrative, the story shifts from the personal and private themes prevalent in all of his work to an almost apocalyptic climax. As the action and tension ramps up McMahon never loses sight of what is the heart of the story. By the time you have finished reading this novel you will be left wondering yourself if Beyond Here Lies Nothing.
This is a deeply unsettling novel, one that cements McMahon's place as one of finest horror authors working today. It will leave you feeling battered and bruised yet strangely uplifted.
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