Thursday, 19 July 2007

‘Unmarked Graves’ – Shaun Hutson (Orbit Books)

Shaun Hutson is probably a nice guy in real life. You know the sort; always polite to the neighbours, does volunteer work for charity, that kind of thing. Shaun Hutson has a secret though; he knows the exact effect a gunshot will have on any part of the human body. Don’t believe me? Read ‘Unmarked Graves’ and see for yourself. I’m glad I didn’t have to do his research…
Nick Pearson is an investigative journalist who is sent to cover rising racial tensions in a Hertfordshire town. Things are pretty bad between the African immigrants and white town dwellers and rising levels of violence soon include fire bombings and attempted murder. It’s about to get worse though with the arrival of a man out of Africa’s bloodiest past. Can Pearson, the police or even the white gangs fight the powers of voodoo?
In some of his other books, Hutson acknowledges Tobe Hooper, Sam Peckinpah and John Carpenter. Having read ‘Unmarked Graves’, it is easy to see where he gets his inspiration from and why he feels the need for these thanks. ‘Unmarked Graves’ actually reads like an action/horror movie written on paper, a fast moving, gut wrenching roller coaster ride of gore, mania and terror. For me though this approach proved to be unfulfilling. There are only so many ways that limbs can be broken, windpipes crushed and eyeballs gouged. I got to a point where what was meant to be horror (through extreme violence) actually ceased to do anything for me, I was already wondering what would happen next rather than concentrating on what was happening now. I used to wonder what ‘show not tell’ meant and now I know. Some ‘film moments’ do not translate well into written prose.
The ‘Omen 2’ style ending did not sit well either. While it may have provided a really visual ‘twist in the tale’ style end to a film it did not work in a book where perhaps a bit more explanation to the ending was required. It struck me as not really doing anything for the plot and left me confused as to what had really been going on.
One thing I will say for Shaun Hutson though is that some of his character studies really make you think about the evil that men do and why they do it. In characters like Kirkland and Mowende (in particular) Hutson shows the read where the real horror lies in both his stories and life in general. This is a real sobering point.
An entertaining pulp read that suffers from thinking it’s a film.

Five out of Ten

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