by Nick Brown
Available in paperback
The story which began in Skendleby returns from Samos, Greece back to where it all started the previous Christmas and where ancient evil has risen its ugly head once again… or did it ever really go away?
When a young pregnant woman from a local women’s commune is brutally killed, Met Detective Inspector Vivian Campbell is transferred from London to Greater Manchester to help solve the case after her success with a tribal killing down South. Will her skills be enough to solve the grisly murder in Skendleby, one of many unusual crimes in the area, or will this case prove beyond her capabilities?
Fortunately for Vivian, help comes from another re-assigned detective in the shape of Athens’ Syntagmatarchis (Colonel) Theodrakis who’s experience on Samos with a similar case will prove invaluable as the body count begins to rise once more.
Author Nick Brown is back with his third book in the Ancient Gramarye series, DARK COVEN, and what a chilling, frightening chapter he opens with! If you’ve read my previous reviews for Skendleby and The Dead Travel Fast then you will get an idea of what to expect in this unnerving series – An ancient evil is unleashed after a group of university archaeologists unearth a burial mound at Skendleby. This fairly standard excavation turns terribly wrong very quickly and wherever the characters involved seem to go, darkness follows. Once you’ve dipped your toes in the murky waters of Skendleby, it’s near impossible to escape and the same goes for the reader. After reading the initial book and then picking up the second, you’re locked into a story that you cannot escape. Not that you’d want to, mind, with Brown’s stellar storytelling reaching into your soul and exposing every inch of your being to horrors you cannot begin to understand.
Nick Brown’s story continues to flow in the third book following directly from the second novel. Whilst Skendleby set everything in motion, the subsequent events have been like a runaway train, gradually gaining momentum and picking up passengers as it travels. What’s for certain is that once you’ve witnessed sinister goings on you’re along for the entire journey whether you like it or not.
In this, the third novel, we get to meet many familiar faces such as the kind-hearted Reverend Ed Joyce and that cocky ogre of a property developer, Si Carver. It’s also great to have The Dead Travel Fast‘s lovable detective Theodrakis brought into the story too, albeit in a rainier, colder climate than he is accustomed to. Apart from a few exceptions, we have quite a full character list from both novels here together in one book which in the story’s terms can only spell trouble. As always, fresh souls are added to the mix as they find themselves sucked into the incomprehensible events occuring around Skendleby. Fortunately help is on hand from those who have prior experience of the phenomenon, that’s providing they stay alive long enough of course. From where the insidious direction Dark Coven is heading, they’ll need all the help they can get!
The thing I adore about Nick Brown’s writing is his use of description. He manages to thrust the reader into the shoes of the person who’s experiencing these things whilst allowing the narrative and dialogue to flow effortlessly. I’ve seen other authors attempt to do the same thing but instead they waffle so much, describing the setting, that I end up forgetting the narrative. This is certainly not the case with Brown. His writing captivates and grabs hold of you to pull you into its story so that you may feel the pain and suffering these individuals are experiencing, an evil so ancient that we cannot begin to comprehend. It’s exciting as it is spine-tingling with the threat of death and the unknown with every turn of the page.
DARK COVEN is a magnificent book. It stands alone as its own chapter with its own feel and identity, mainly due to the introduction of new characters, but still relies upon the previous novels in the series for readers to understand what is going on. Much like a Roman Polanski film, the narrative will shock and unnerve you to the core. Apart from the horrific murders, you might not be able to quite put your finger on the source but you’ll sense it. Brown’s stellar use of language is the key here. Without it the desired effect would not be achievable but due to Brown’s skills, he will make you feel every inch of unease described on the pages to the point where you may have nightmares. One thing is for certain though, his literary gift will have you coming back for more. Once you’ve picked up the book and turned the page, you’ll be hooked.
Thrilling, bone-chilling and quite often terrifying, DARK COVEN has me spooked yet chomping at the bit for what I believe will be the fourth and final installment of the series, Green Man Resurrection.
If you’re looking for a solid horror novel that relies on mystery and narrative rather than gore, then DARK COVEN and the rest of the Gramarye Series are for you.