A long-serving policeman has an encounter with the inexplicable…
By far the creepiest of the instalments to date (although that may be because, rather unwisely, I chose to read it just before turning out the light to go to sleep), Synch in Progress moves the Skayne saga forward more than half a century to the time around the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Barnes captures the less than enamoured response of the police to the disruption caused by the nuptials, and then throws a bigger spanner into the works when our narrator, an apparently normal detective, is called for by name by a young girl in the cells – who introduces him to an iPod with some unusual abilities. From the moment that he discovers what happens after the iPod syncs overnight, his downfall is assured, because what he hears on the machine cannot possibly be real – and yet, it clearly is.
Reading in some ways like an updated version of Nigel Kneale’s classic play The Stone Tapes, Synch in Progress works on multiple levels, as Detective Inspector Stoneham tries to understand what is happening, and we realise ahead of him some of the horrors which await, not only from the iPod but from what he is doing to himself. But on this occasion, Godfrey Skayne isn’t the most horrific aspect of the story – this chapter’s haunting image (pun fully intended) is much younger.
Verdict: A taut mix of psychological terror and horror. 9/10