An archaeological dig to uncover a suspected Iron Age village between the villages of Skendleby and Woodford turns into a living nightmare when the archaeologists turn their attention to a plot known as Devil’s Mound.
I love nothing better than a good story which works its way into the reader’s mind slowly, seeping under the skin. SKENDLEBY by author Nick Brown is such a novel and the fact that it is set in Cheshire, my neighbouring county, makes it all the more spookier to read.
The book centres around a group of archaeologists, led by Giles, a fine archaeologist but not as skilled in the profession as his second-in-command Steve. With his long hair, Steve is quite the ladies man, looking for no-strings attached female company much to the upset of his on/off conquest and fellow archaeologist Leonie. Leonie’s friend Jan, also working on the dig, comforts her friend yet at the same time flirts with Steve, who she also has a crush on. Taking all this gossip in is Rose, the inquisitive archaeologist of the group who’s least interested in digging around in the dirt for the Iron Age village, and more interested in what lies within Devil’s Mound. After pestering Steve to get permission from Giles, Rose sets about uncovering Devil’s Mound, a suspected Neolithic chamber. She’s drawn to it and knows what lies beneath will be her crowning glory and will get them all famous, not some Iron Age ruins in the Skendleby Hall estate.
Compared to some books, Skendleby is not short of characters though author Nick Brown manages to keep a handle on all these various personalities, telling their points of view of the same event in different chapters as well as giving each character their own identity and characteristics. This makes for a varied read and a realistic one, as the reader gets to see how deep the plot goes, binding the characters together by one specific act. The characters branch out from the group of archaeologists to Ed Joyce – the local vicar, Sir Nigel Davenport – former owner of Skendleby Hall which now belongs to the money-orientated and fame hungry Si Carver, Jim Gibson – a journalist for the local newspaper The Journal and Derek Richardson, the village’s corrupt councillor, amongst others.
For horror fans, this is definitely a novel to get your teeth into, though don’t expect anything particularly in-your-face or vicious. If you imagine the opening of The Exorcist and that kind of unease and unspoken evil which is present in the film, then you have a good idea what the horror is like in this book. It’s a supernatural evil with strange events that will unnerve you bit by bit. As the story moves along and the incidents occur more frequently, so will the fear that Nick Brown produces. Even a character often described as moving jittery will easily come to life at the forefront of your imagination and make you squirm in your seat with every turn of the page.
The 337 page book is quite an enjoyable read, detailing the various locations as well as the season in which the book is set. The weather plays a big part in detailing the mood and physical changes within the story. I’d say the target audience for this novel would be those aged 15+, and especially those who love classic horror storytelling that relies upon the story rather than graphic horror.
To say any more about the story would ruin it, but whilst it works as a standalone novel, there is in fact a sequel called The Dead Travel Fast which I will be reviewing soon. SKENDLEBY is the first book in a planned series of five novels from author Nick Brown, who you may be interested to know is a historian and archaeologist himself, which leaves my mind wandering to where this spooky story will end up next.
Skendleby is a heartily recommended read for all horror and thriller fans.