Thirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell

Thirteen Days by Sunset BeachThirteen Days by Sunset Beach by Ramsey Campbell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A family make their way to the newly developed island of Vasilema, their first ever vacation to Greece. Whilst the elders – Ray and Sandra – share a distressing secret, they attempt to make the most of their time, including getting familiar with the odd customs that dominate the island. If only the nearby nocturnal hotspot of Sunset Beach didn’t play on their minds, and odd and questionable happenings didn’t interrupt their relaxation.

(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Flame Tree Press for giving me the opportunity.

Being my first full-length novel by Campbell, my initial impression was a positive one; I found that there was this instant aura of suspense, and that primarily pulled me into the story being constructed. I liked the married couple that I was introduced to, and I was eager to progress and discover the mystery surrounding Sunset Beach. It’s unfortunate that my enthusiasm admittedly didn’t last long, as once the bulk of characters came into play, I was sent into a downward spiral of frustration that revolved around the near-constant family drama. This was surprising, as I’m someone that can enjoy dysfunctional theatrics, but this was overwhelming, and undoubtedly detrimental to the story that was trying push its way to the forefront. At first, I had a difficult time establishing between the slew of new names, but even when I became familiar with the individuals and their respective relations, they merely appeared to be this blob of unnecessary squabbling. Due to the perpetual state of confrontation and bickering, I felt there was little to no room for character development; it was just more of the same throughout.

This isn’t to say I disliked every aspect; from the get-go Campbell’s writing style appealed to me. There’s no question that he’s a good writer, as accomplished as he is, and I could very well see the high standard. In particular, one masterful scene that took place in an abandoned Byzantine monastery was by far the highlight of the entire novel. It depicted a sense of trepidation in its dark and claustrophobic confines; atmospheric doesn’t even begin to describe that scene. If only it maintained that brilliancy of subtle yet gratifying horror, but it didn’t, and that’s my issue. Too much of nothing occurred in-between, and whilst I’m a fan of the slow burn, it just struck me as dead air. One chapter representing a day was just monotonous when nothing happened for the majority of those days. Well, apart from the sea of petty disagreements.

If anyone was sucking the life out of anything, it had to be Julian. He was one of those characters an author tries extra hard to make intolerable; going so far that everything they utter brings about annoyance. He wasn’t someone that I loved to hate, he was simply this parasitic nitwit that I wished never existed. I firmly believe that, had he been less aggravating, it would have improved the overall experience for me. As for the others; my opinion of Ray and Sandra didn’t change. They were a solid element that were brought down by their clan.

It’s a huge shame that it went this way. The Greek Island of Vasilema offered an extensive amount of potential that I felt was wasted. I could have further appreciated the significance of morality and immortality if not for it being overshadowed by my aforementioned complaints. I don’t need my horror to have copious amounts of gore and death, but I do need something consistent that peaks my interest long enough for me to feel fully invested.

In conclusion: Whilst the potential was certainly there, it seldom saw the light of day. The focus honed in on the family, their many arguments and parenting differences. Not exactly what I’d call compelling.

Notable Scene:

His terror clarified his thoughts, and he realised he might have a weapon. He thrust his phone at the advancing face, shining the flashlight beam into the eyes. He didn’t know he meant to speak until words spilled out of his mouth. “Let us live and we’ll let you live.”

© Red Lace 2018

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