It’s not every day a ten-year-old child tries to hire John Persons, especially when the job involves the killing of said child’s stepfather. Abusive, with a monster living inside his flesh, the target proves to be more formidable than first expected. But the hunt is on, and John, being a monster himself, is determined to stop the man. Him, and the spread of sickness that buries itself deep.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
My third title for the Ladies of Horror Fiction readathon, and it took me by surprise. Despite being a novella, and thus relatively short in length, Khaw expertly constructed a world that fits comfortably within the Lovecraftian mythos. I immediately got a Call of Cthulhu impression – with the rough and ready private investigator – which took me back to the tabletop game. Whilst there’s certainly nothing new about the premise, I was instantly drawn to John Persons and his old-school attitude in contemporary London. His narrative was addictive, in that I just wanted to consume everything as quickly as possible. He just had this air about him; perhaps it was his cynicism, his bleak yet honest view of the world, or his brusque demeanour. Hell, he was just tremendously compelling due to Khaw’s use of language – a concoction of 40s-50s slang and poetic turns of phrase.
The plot included many tropes that’s typical in the detective scene, yet it worked so well. The brutality held a realistic edge while still entrenched in cosmic terror; domestic abuse coupled with many-eyed monstrosities. It was obvious that a lot of thought was put into the history of John and even his future; the story set up unanswered questions, and so left off with a large amount of potential. I particularly enjoyed the epilogue, of all things, but I won’t go into specifics as it’s something to experience first-hand – let’s just say someone very special made an appearance. I know there’s a second instalment available, which honestly thrills me.
In conclusion: Hammers on Bone had me captivated from the very first page. The writing – fantastic in developing a forlorn atmosphere – went beyond what I expected. The main character charmed me with his stoic way of life, and I could seriously read many more books all centring around him. If it’s not blatantly obvious, I recommend this novella one hundred percent.
Some stories, you keep in the deep.
© Red Lace 2019
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