A Cold Silence – Alison Littlewood
In Alison Littlewood’s first novel A Cold Season we were introduced to Cass and her son Ben. When her soldier husband was reported as missing in action, presumed dead, Cass took Ben to live in the isolated village of Darnshaw, where her estranged father was once the local priest.
At first, despite some of the local folk being a bit odd towards the newcomers, things seemed fine, but then they get snowed in and cut off from the outside world. Ben started at the local school where Cass found herself attracted to Theodore Remick, the stand in headmaster, but then Ben fell in with the local creepy kids and started behaving strangely. To make matters worse the phone lines went down and Darnshaw just happened to be in a mobile phone black spot. Oh yes and then there were the 30-year-old unsolved murders, the unbearable scratching in walls of her new apartment, creepy snowmen and the question of why all the kids had the same thin scar, as if someone had cut them across their little hands.
To say any more would spoil a fun read for you dear Flowers, A Cold Season is a gripping slice of English folk horror that would not be out-of-place in the company of The Blood on Satan’s Skin or Rosemary’s Baby.
In A Cold Silence we find Ben all grown up. Against the wishes of his mother Ben goes back to Darnshaw to attend the funeral of former classmate Jessica. At the funeral Ben meets up with A Cold Season‘s creepy kids leader Damian. Invited back to Jessica’s flat, Ben discovers that when Jessica died she had been playing Acheron. a remarkably intuitive and interactive computer game that was devised by a gaming company that Ben had worked for back in London.
Jessica wasn’t the only game player though, former boyfriend Ashley plays Acheron, so dos Damian and so does Ben’s half-sister Gaila, a successful model in London, The thing about Acheron is that the game does not just give, it exacts a price from the player and in Gaila’s case the price for her success is to get Ben down to London, Once Ben arrives he plots with Gaila, Damian,and Damian’s small group of Acheron players to infiltrate the games company HQ and take on CEO Theodore Jones. Only it’s not just a matter of breaking in to an office and deleting a database, once inside the building the groups good intentions and motivations fall by the wayside as they confront Jones and he insists on collecting on his side of the bargain.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the creeping ancient menace of A Cold Season, I was a bit nervous about where A Cold Silence was going to take me. I needn’t have worried far from getting bogged down in techie stuff that I’m too old to understand we are really looking at a modern take on a Faustian pact. Unlike A Cold Season there isn’t the same sort of broody lead up to the climax as London offices and computer gaming just don’t present the writer with the same opportunity to draw out the supernatural tension in the same way that props like ancient standing stones and bleak snow-clad moorland do. As a consequence the narrative is more dependent upon the dynamics and interaction between the characters within it, but there is nothing wrong with that.
A rather different read to its predecessor, perhaps a bit more cerebral then visceral I give A Cold Silence a big 666/666 .
A Cold Silence is published by our pals at Jo Fletcher Books price £7.99 in paperback
I do advise reading A Cold Season before embarking upon A Cold Silence, it will help you make sense of the story and is a great read too.