Edie Grace is the chef at the Tup, the local pub in Ravenglass, a small northern town close to the Sellafield nuclear processing plant. When Edie cuts her finger chopping some veg, little does she suspect that the few drops of blood she sheds at an ancient stone circle will reawaken an ancient malevolence known as ‘the Candle’, and before long Ravenglass is engulfed in a round of ritual mutilation, murder and shifting realities.
Saying any more than that about the plot would spoil all the fun of your reading of Tom Fletcher’s novel my dear Hothouse Flowers. However this is an exceptionally well-written story that more than once wrong foots your inner Sherlock Holmes with an almighty great red herring. In fact, the quality of Fletcher’s literary style puts me very much more in mind of dark modern crime writers like Ian Rankin or Peter May than that of your average horror potboilers. Much of the action is centred around the Tup, (a narrative device that happens time and time again in British horror) it’s the place in Ravenglass where people meet and talk about the weird stuff that’s going on, it’s also the place where the people from ‘outside’ the town stay. So when a local blogger links the ritual mutilation of a sheep dog with local hoodies playing violent video games while listening to satanic death metal, Fleet Street’s finest end up swarming all over the local boozer like wasps to a jam pot.
I found the characters in The Ravenglass Eye really believable and easy to identify with. Nobody is too pretty or too nice and everyone has their own petty failings, but best of all there is no patronising of youth culture. The only possible exception to this would be the journalists who all behave in a very stereotypical tabloid way, although having said that I have met enough journos who are exactly like that so I’m going to let Fletcher away with such a liberty.
Fletcher’s Ravenglass invokes an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia even when the action takes place outside. The town is sandwiched between a military weapons range and the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant and even the sky feels as if is falling in with the constant overhead screeching of RAF fighter jets. The underlying threat from the ancient presence at the stone circle is rooted firmly to the mythology of prehistoric Britain and the religious practices of the pre-Roman Celtic inhabitants. It’s this gloomy sense of atmosphere with its overwhelming foreboding of something really, really nasty that’s about to happen that makes The Ravenglass Eye such a compelling read.
If this were a film I’d give it a big 666.
The Ravenglass Eye is published by Jo Fletcher Books
My favourite pub-based British shockers are:
Devil Girl from Mars (British Lion 1954): Patricia Laffin plays the rubber-clad dominatrix out to repopulate Mars by kidnapping sturdy Brits. Only problem is that, despite the Martian’s advanced space navigation she mistakes London for the Scottish highlands and a pub run by Dad’s Army’s John Laurie. It’s a bit creaky and clearly shows its origins as a stage play, but its great fun. She has a rubbish robot sidekick too.
Night of the Big Heat (Planet 1967): Patrick Allen plays Jeff Callum, the landlord of The Swan on a remote Scottish Island. Jeff’s affair with his secretary is rudely interrupted by the arrival of some pesky aliens who start incinerating the islanders. Christopher Lee is the investigating scientist from the mainland and Peter Cushing is the local doctor.
Review by Simon Ball
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