by Mark R. Faulkner
Published by Infested Books
Available in paperback and eBook format
Photographer Hannah and musician Jake live in a flat in the city but are looking to relocate to the countryside. When a secluded, detached cottage named Picker’s Bleed comes up for sale near the village of Marsham, they’re overjoyed to secure a viewing. Not afraid of a bit of renovation work, they’re over the moon when their offer on the cottage is accepted and they move into their dream home to start their new future together. However, as they learn of the property’s tainted past, the couple begin to wonder if Picker’s Bleed is not so much the fairytale property they first thought it was, but instead their worst nightmare.
PICKER’S BLEED is a supernatural folk horror story by author Mark R. Faulkner, who’s previous works include Flux, The Dark Stone, and novella, Infested. In PICKER’S BLEED, Faulkner takes two characters and plunges them into unfamiliar territory, away from the hustle and bustle of city life and into a sequestered existence. However, the isolation of the property is the least of their concerns…
Set in a small village in the UK, and moreso the outskirts of it, PICKER’S BLEED creates quite an intimate, claustrophobic scenario as horrors of the past become very much the present. As joy quickly turns to fear, it feels like main characters Hannah and Jake are dealing with this newly discovered evil on their own, the weight of the burden entirely on their shoulders. The villagers are the nearest thing to help they can get, that’s if they can be of any use considering the effects the property has on outsiders. The tension mounts as we discover what exactly lurks inside the property and how that will impact our main characters. Even though we get a bit of a headstart on the story, thanks to the prologue setting the scene, we’re still in the dark on what this means for Hannah and Jake. It’s thrilling yet nerve-shredding to discover, alongside the characters, what secrets their house has in store for them. Even when Jake is away from the property on tour with his band, it’s unnerving to have that wickedness seep across the miles, regardless of the distance, as he and Hannah attempt to connect with each other.
All roads lead back to the cottage, one that author Mark R. Faulkner has crafted into such a chilling entity in its own right. The descriptive way in which the property is envisioned is enough to send shivers up anyone’s spine. The words conjure up some sinister images indeed, not just of the cottage but the characters and events surrounding it, as though you’re watching a film unfold right before your eyes. You can feel it, smell and taste the stench of rot and decay surrounding the cottage, and it’s hard not to wince at some of the depictions described within the pages.
Outside of the cottage, Faulkner’s use of language for the characters and references are very contemporary of the UK at this time. The humour between the couple and Jake’s verbal reactions feel very familiar which helped me to invest in the story much quicker off the mark, as though I actually knew these people myself. Having characters you can easily connect with in a book such as this, where aspects of the supernatural are explored, helps to ground the reader and make these other-worldly scenarios that much more frightening and ‘real’. I felt with the characters every step of the way as the slowly realise that all is not right with the place they call home. Their confusion and fear is palpable, making you want to shout at them even though it’d do as much good as it does shouting to characters on a TV screen.
At 276 pages, PICKER’S BLEED isn’t a long novel but is enough for Faulkner to create incredible depth and breathe life into the world, complete with its wicked history and the various characters within. It’s a captivating read that chills as the evil seeps from the pages and transcends dimensions to unnerve and leave the reader in utter despair with every page turn. A tension-driven, occult chiller fuelled by demonic darkness