Angry Robot, out now
Thomas Usher sees dead people – but the bigger problem is that worse things can see him…
Part private detective story, part very creepy Northern ghost story, Gary McMahon’s first novel featuring Thomas Usher is a powerful tale that grips the reader, even when you start to lose patience with its protagonist. It’s highly reminiscent of John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series of novels in places: the same haunted central figure whose wife and child are beyond his reach, but where Connolly delves into the blackness of the human heart, McMahon’s is a more visceral approach.
Usher himself is weighed down by guilt but knows that he needs some form of redemption, and his almost suicidal desires to help, as well as the modern-day equivalent of self-flagellation with his list tattooed on his back listing those he deems he has failed, are a warped reflection of that.
There’s an unremitting bleakness about the story, from its opening car crash to the truth about the kidnapping that’s central to the case, and its setting in a very familiar landscape means that the darkness that’s eventually revealed is all the more horrific for its domestic location.
Verdict: A novel and central character that stick in the mind long after reading. 8/10