Tuesday, 1 November 2022

The Vessel


The Vessel is Adam Nevill’s eleventh novel and the third to be published by his own imprint Ritual Ltd. In keeping with those previous releases, the book features amazing cover art courtesy of Samuel Araya (with the hardback once again giving the image the prominence it deserves by omitting the title from the cover); a truly unsettling portrait of an old woman, rendered in the now familiar red and black palette which is a trademark feature of the Ritual covers.

The story concerns care worker Jess McMachen (no prizes for guessing from where that surname derives) starting a new job at the wonderfully named Nerthus House (an eminently Google-able name whose derivation will offer tantalising titbits about what is to come), situated in the village of Eadric - the outskirts of which provided the location of Adam’s previous novel Cunning Folk - there to look after the former vicarage’s resident, the elderly and disabled Flo Gardner.

Anyone who has watched Rose Glass’s hugely impressive directorial debut St Maud will find these opening scenes familiar, but once the scenario has been established, the stories which follow are very different. From the off, it’s obvious that there is something not quite right about Flo; wheelchair bound and virtually comatose, the arrival of Jess – and in particular her daughter Izzy – seems to bring about a reawakening in the old woman and with it the formation of a bond between her and Izzy.

Clues are subtly woven into the narrative to suggest Flo’s true nature. Small shrines, pagan in nature, are discovered by Jess scattered around the house and Flo invokes the name of Erce – an Anglo-Saxon earth goddess. When talking to Izzy Flo uses the wiccan phrases “merry meet” and “merry part” rather than a simple hello or goodbye.

In common with a number of Adam’s female characters, Jess has a troubled past in the shape of a violent ex, Tony. His re-entry into the new and better world Jess is trying to create for herself and Izzy acts as a catalyst for the action of the novel, setting into motion a terrifying sequence of events; ones which find a resonance in the dark history of Nerthus House.

We’re well and truly in folk horror territory here, in keeping with the previous two Ritual Ltd novel releases The Reddening and Cunning Folk and the feeling of dread at what must surely, inevitably happen mounts and mounts as the narrative progresses. There are echoes of Adam’s earlier novel House of Small Shadows here, with a young woman being drawn into, and under, the influence of a house’s elderly resident but whereas in that earlier book it’s Catherine, the protagonist, who is the victim of Edith Mason’s malevolence here it’s Jess’s daughter Izzy who falls under the spell (possibly literally) of Flo, with some kind of connection being made between the young girl and Flo’s own daughter Charlotte who died as a child.

The Vessel features all the genuine creepiness and disturbing imagery readers have come to expect from one of Adam’s novels and its narrative of folk horror, ritual and ancient gods marks it out as archetypal of his oeuvre. At the same time, however, it is very different indeed to his other books – that difference being the way in which the novel has been constructed and written. Like Cunning Folk which preceded it, The Vessel began life as a screenplay but whereas the former was adapted and added to in order to make it more novelesque, what we see and read in The Vessel is pretty much the film as it would play out on screen presented on the page.

Changes have been made of course, the book does not read as a screenplay with attributed dialogue interspersed with paragraphs of action direction but, compared to all of Adam’s novels, this is a slim volume indeed, clocking in at just under 150 pages. The reason for this brevity is that – because this is a representation of what would be seen on screen – all inner monologues and pages of introspection describing the protagonists’ inner thoughts and emotions have been stripped out. Any clues as to what the characters are feeling or thinking come solely from what is seen and heard by them.

It's a bold move, and one made possible by the author having full creative control over his work, something which allowed the “experimental” collection of short stories Wyrd and Other Derelictions, stories in which there were no characters at all. Wyrd worked brilliantly, (and I still believe that the format of the derelictions should be regarded as a new sub-genre), and it has to be said that The Vessel is equally successful in achieving what the author set out to do.

I have some reservations of course; one of the things I find most impressive in Adam’s writing is the tension he creates and then maintains (see The Ritual and No One Gets Out Alive in particular). Much of that tension arises from getting inside the characters’ heads of course, something which doesn’t happen here and, while there are scenes within The Vessel that create their own tension what we have here is a much faster paced read which rattles along from one chilling development to the next.

That said, the characters in The Vessel are far from cardboard cut-outs, simply there to progress the plot. They are all of them fully formed and Jess’s backstory is more than adequately explained. In true cinematic style, using visual clues, her current and past experience is summed up in a single line:


With fingers reddened by cleaning agents, she habitually worries an old scar that cuts her top lip and extends to her nose.


As succinctly as that, light is thrown on Jess’s relationship with her ex, Tony, giving an insight into his character even before we meet him, painting a picture of him in readers’ heads that manifests as unease whenever he appears.

There are a number of visual references to circles in the novel too; the window above the door of Nerthus House, hand gestures made by Flo, even the layout of the village of Eadric itself, all of which play into a notion of circularity, of wheels both literal and metaphorical slowly turning, of ends becoming beginnings – history repeating itself.

The cinematic style and form of the novel is reflected in its short chapters, each representing a scene in the film that would have been. As the book hurtles towards its climax there’s even rapid cutting between action in different locations within a scene. At one point, there’s even the literary equivalent of a jump scare, a sudden jolt of action and sound (yes, sound) that managed to startle me. I have to say that it’s a device I hate in films but I was certainly impressed by this one. There’s a nice use of bookending too, a sequence which opens the book closes it too, a fitting use of the technique given the motif of circularity which runs through the narrative.

I enjoyed The Vessel very much. It’s true that I missed languishing in the Nevillesque for an extended period of time (I polished it off in two sittings) but the skilful way the narrative has been constructed here is impossible not to admire. It’s refreshing to see an author refusing to rest on their laurels and try different things, especially when those efforts result in something as clever and entertaining as The Vessel.






Thursday, 24 March 2022

Seeds of Destruction


Seeds of Destruction, the second volume of the Damocles Files series was published last month. It’s another collaboration with my good friend Benedict J Jones and once more features the exploits of DAMOCLES, an organisation housed in the Ministry of Information in London’s Senate House whose mission is to fight a shadow war against the occult machinations of the Axis forces.

Volume One centred around the efforts of the Sons of Fenrir to bring about Ragnarok, the Norse end of days but this storyline features a different kind of threat entirely – albeit one with potential world-ending implications. In keeping with the format established in Volume One, the novel covers the entire period of World War Two and is made up of discrete short stories and novellas linked by an overarching narrative. (Unlike Volume One, we actually knew what the overarching story was – which made writing the stories that little bit easier…) As before, the stories were mainly divvied up between us but on a couple of occasions the stories were properly co-written.

Whereas Volume One revolved around the war in Europe, this second book expands the Damoclean universe into the Pacific theatre. This allowed us to introduce Damocles’ American counterparts, Office 49, a division of the proto-CIA OSS. It also allowed us to set the stories in a variety of exotic locations, a hugely enjoyable part of the writing process for me personally and these include China, Japan and the Philippines.

Although Damocles is a fictional organisation (or is it..?), its exploits are set among real events and great care was taken to ensure the authenticity of the world we were creating. Actual events which are referenced in the book are the Bataan Death march and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Real people turn up too, (as was the case in Volume One), including engineer turned resistance fighter Wendell Fertig and his friend, Australian guerrilla fighter Jock McLaren.

It was  areal joy to revisit the world of Damocles and, because of the way the books are structured, to revisit too the characters we had created some of whom didn’t make it to the end of the first book. Taking centre stage this time is Edgar Case, who had a cameo appearance in Volume One. Edgar’s training in natural sciences makes him the cornerstone of the investigation this time around and his exploits allowed me release my inner nerd both in terms of his scientific knowledge but also his love of cryptic crosswords. I had great fun creating the cryptic clues which are dotted throughout the book (all of which have deeply significant answers of course), so much fun that I had a go at compiling a whole Damocles themed crossword which you can have a go at here. Edgar is probably the closest character to myself although his receding hairline, grumpiness and antisocial outlook on life are of course nothing like me at all.

As well as the crossword clues, I also had a bash at writing some poetry for the book – specifically Japanese death poetry – but that should certainly not put you off buying the book. Getting the chance to do stuff like this, along with the (almost) free rein to choose exotic locations in which to set the stories, is one of the many joys of writing in the Damocles universe and I’d like to think that the enthusiasm we both have for the project comes across on the page.

Another huge joy is seeing what our designer Peter Frain comes up with to grace the covers of the books. I think the design he came up with for Seeds of Destruction is right up there with his best work, perfectly capturing the essence of the story – and including a wonderful reference to Hokusai’s The Great Wave.

We’re 55000 words into Volume Three already and the storyline had already taken us to Abyssinia, Albania, China, France, Spain, Italy and Southern Iraq with plenty more to come. This looks like being the most supernatural of the three books and I’m loving delving into ancient religious texts by way of research for it. In another war-spanning tale, established characters will return alongside a whole host of new ones to prevent…

Well, that would be telling.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Cunning Folk



Cunning Folk is the new novel from Adam Nevill and the second published by the author’s own imprint Ritual Limited. As with all previous Ritual publications, the book itself is a thing of beauty with another stunning piece of artwork from Samuel Araya gracing the cover. The hardback edition is particularly striking, following the precedent set by 2019’s The Reddening by omitting the title and giving full exposure to a monstrous visage, in this case a terrifying boar with curved tusks and glaring, red eyes.

The book’s protagonists are Tom and Fiona who, along with daughter Gracey and dog Archie, are moving into their new home, a house they’ve bought after years of living in rented accommodation. A new start awaits them all, an escape from unscrupulous landlords and the grim existence of life as tenants…

OK, it’s clear from the start what kind of story this is going to be. Even if it weren’t for the hugely effective prologue to the book, in which the fate of the house’s previous owner is revealed, savvy readers will realise that things “probably” won’t be going to plan for the family, and that their dream of a new life will instead be a nightmare. The trope of the “moving into a new house unaware of its dark and secret past” is far from new but – I have to admit – is a particular favourite of mine, particularly if the properties are in remote, rural locations. To his credit, Adam gives a nod to this early on in the book during a game of I-Spy as the family approach the house. “Something beginning with H” elicits both “home” and “haunted house” as replies.

Sinister dwellings have of course featured in Adam’s books before, most overtly in Apartment 16, House of Small Shadows and the recently screen-adapted No One Gets Out Alive (which expands hugely on the aforementioned horrors of living in rented accommodation). The challenge then, was to see if he could come up with something new on the theme, a challenge I was fairly confident he would rise to given his recent invention of a whole new sub-genre with his amazing Derelictions.

My confidence was not misplaced. After carefully arranging all the pieces to set up readers’ expectations, Adam skilfully pulls the rug from beneath their feet and gives us something else entirely.

The house is in a state of decrepitude, something which gives Tom the opportunity to flex his DIY muscles as he learns the art of being a “home owner”. Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming sense of pride and achievement the act of laying a single piece of lino in a room brings with it (yes, I speak from personal experience), things turn darker for Tom. It soon becomes obvious that the house requires a  huge amount of work – something that will cost money the couple do not have; Tom is freelance but currently with no contracts whilst Fiona works in a bank. This introduces a tension into their relationship, a tension which is exacerbated by the introduction of the book’s other main characters, Tom and Fiona’s next door neighbours the Moots.

The Moots are wonderful creations, and it’s clear from the start that something is decidedly “off” about them. Adam has a real gift for describing the weird and such is the case here. The neighbours not only have a distinctive appearance, their behaviour is also somewhat unsettling; visitors to their property appear to interact with them in a way that suggests obeisance, as if the Moots have some power and control over them. Whilst this is strange enough, it’s their proprietorial attitude to their own property – and the land around it – that brings them into conflict with Tom.

The “that’s not how we do things around here” sentiment is one familiar to anyone moving into a new area, a manifestation of the belief that ownership and control are somehow part of the act of simply living in a place for some time. The Moots, however, take this concept to its extreme – and some of the things they do do are very strange indeed.

The book is mainly told via the viewpoint of Tom but it’s a clever move on the author’s part to describe the first of the truly bizarre set-pieces through the eyes of Gracey who has wandered into the woods behind the house. There, she comes across a clearing and witnesses a strange ritual being performed by the Moots. Through her innocent eyes, the activities on display are strange but in a funny way; to the readers’ eyes of course, they are something else entirely.

Grotesqueries are stock in trade for Adam and the manifestations within Cunning Folk are a fine addition to his monstrous menagerie. Those whose childhoods were traumatised by the TV show Pipkins will have their nightmares rekindled here and there’s  more than a passing reference to the author’s short story Pig Thing.

Conflict, inevitably, arises between the two households and, as the paranoia and tension increase, so Tom’s behaviour becomes ever more extreme. The ratcheting up of hostilities is cleverly done, a contrast being drawn between the seemingly calm and controlled Moots and the increasingly erratic Tom. The narrative raises the possibility that all this is in Tom’s head of course, something that clearly occurs to Fiona whose frustration with her husband further exacerbates the tension that is already there between them.

Whatever the driving force behind the conflict, it culminates in a scene which is possibly one of the most disturbing Adam has ever written. Which is saying something. The scene brings things to a head, and ushers in the third act of the book in which revelations abound and a whole new context is placed on events.

Cunning Folk is adapted from Adam’s own screenplay – something which is reflected in the present tense prose of the novel. (Lines like “Tom picks up the chainsaw” work in both formats). This is something which both benefits and detracts from the narrative. The need to condense the story into what would be ninety minutes on screen (or 120 if there’s a bigger budget…) means that the narrative cracks along at a fair old pace. Short chapters reflect short scenes on film. Whilst this is a positive (“it’s a literal page-turner!”) it also means that there’s some loss of tension. Both The Ritual and No One Gets Out Alive are supreme examples of the author creating – and, more importantly, sustaining – incredible amounts of tension but I felt that was lacking a little in Cunning Folk. Both those books have of course been made into films and whilst The Ritual movie managed to recreate some of the tension of the book, No One Gets Out Alive – whilst being hugely entertaining in its own right – had no chance to do the same, having reduced the original 600 plus page novel into a swift 85 minutes running time.

It could be argued that this “need for speed” sacrifices the time for character development and, indeed, it often seems that Fiona simply acts as a foil for Tom. The story really is Tom’s however, it’s his actions and reactions that drive the narrative - and Adam does have a very good track record for having strong, female lead characters in previous novels.

These are minor quibbles anyway. The characters are still well drawn enough for you to care about them and what happens to them – which makes “that” scene all the more impactful. Whilst I delighted in the longueurs of many of Adam’s previous works, immersing myself in the worlds he’d created, I really enjoyed hurtling through Cunning Folk – in fact the change in pace from previous works is testament to his versatility. And to be left wishing there had been more is no bad thing either…

Cunning Folk is, well, cunning – playing with readers ‘expectations throughout. It’s a potent blend of psychological and folk horror with a hefty dose of violence added to spice things up. The conclusion, reached via an action-packed third act, is deeply satisfying – which is a description I can apply to the book as a whole. It’s further evidence (were it needed) that Adam Nevill remains at the forefront of contemporary horror fiction. Long may that situation continue.

Thursday, 30 September 2021



CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve Accidentally Summoned a World-ending Monster. What Now? is the latest offering to spring from the loins of author Duncan P Bradshaw, those same loins which have already produced a number of books with really long titles. Like the best marmalade, the book is thick and chunky, the spine of the paperback alone is an incredible one inch (24mm) wide and the volume weighs in at an impressive 17oz (482g). If these amazing statistics alone aren’t enough to convince you to buy it (bear in mind there’s a kindle version too but it’s difficult to make any kind of anthropometric measurement of a virtual medium - but let’s say it’s 21g which is the weight of a hummingbird or a human soul) then maybe the words inside will be.

There are loads of them, verbs, nouns (some of them proper), adverbs (I know!) and adjectives – all arranged in an order which makes them instantly readable and sometimes hilarious. The most important word in that sentence, of course, was “order” because that’s the key to enjoying this book to its fullest, is indeed the principle upon which it has been created/extruded from loins. The thing is, the reader themselves decide on the order in which the pages within are read!

I know, this is a major dereliction on behalf of the author; reading books is supposed to be relaxing, an activity done for pleasure and here we are having to do ALL the work. There are however, ample instructions as to how this might be achieved; at the end of some sections a choice is presented to the reader as to which page to go to next, each of which will lead the story down a different path. (In the kindle version, this is achieved by the use of hyperlinks like this one). It’s a clever concept and one which – if it hadn’t been for Edward Packard coming up with the idea of the Choose Your Own Adventure books – would be totally unique. Readers who manage to ignore the feelings of paranoia born of wondering if they’ve chosen the right path and stressing over whether they’re going to be lost in a never-ending maze within the book will enjoy themselves greatly, following the eclectic bunch of characters to not one, but TEN different endings. The challenge of course is to find them all, and minimise the number of times you say “bollocks, I’ve been this way before”. As an added bonus, there’s a hidden section which will take the (crafty clue-solving) reader into a completely different realm (not literally) in which they will uncover – shall we say – stories within the story…

As to the plot… well, the title pretty much sums it up and to be honest, I can’t be arsed to review ten different stories. It is hugely entertaining though, with lashings of the trademark Bradshaw humour and surrealism with enough fourth wall breaking to satisfy even the most ardent and critical aficionados of postmodern metafictional mucky jokes.

Joking aside, the book truly is a wonder to behold. It’s mind-boggling to contemplate the amount of work that must have gone into producing it. It’s an amazing achievement and one which has been pulled off with aplomb (see mucky jokes above).

I loved the time I spent wandering around aimlessly in the dark corridors of this book. In the best traditions of GoreCom, it will have you laughing out loud one moment and stifling a gag reflex the next (sometimes simultaneously actually). It could well be the author’s finest hour (or minute if you choose ending seven).

By way of homage to the book and its central theme of “be careful playing word-based games, you never know what might happen” and also to a key character who – despite only warranting a couple of sentences – provides the beating heart of the novel, here’s a wordsearch puzzle containing a number of key themes from CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve Accidentally Summoned a World-Ending Monster. Which you should buy. Now.


Monday, 17 May 2021

Wings in the Darkness


This Friday, (21st May) sees the release of Wings in the Darkness, a novella set in the world of The Damocles Files; a series of novels created by Benedict J Jones and myself which are a mixture of military action and supernatural horror set during World War Two featuring the exploits of the eponymous organisation.

The novella is actually an expansion of one of the stories featured in Ragnarok Rising, the first novel in the series which will be released in the summer. It was written by way of an introduction to Damocles and features many of the characters who populate the world we created and, whilst it works perfectly as a standalone read, also drops a few teasers and hints to events in the novel.

Wings in the Darkness tells of the search, by Damocles, for a vitally important artefact and a such involved a humongous amount of research in order to create a realistic scenario for where, and how, it was hidden in the first place. We both knew where it was of course, but the trick lay in getting our characters to do their own research in order that they could track it down, laying down a trail of clues for them to follow. Enter some warring Iron Age tribes, ancient Norse kings, an expert on the Icelandic sagas and a folklorist with a specialised interest in the “hidden people” and the scene was set.

As with writing the novel itself, I hugely enjoyed co-writing Wings in the Darkness. I can’t wait to invite people into the world we’ve created and the novella is the fist step in that process. It will be available as an ebook for Kindle only and is the bargain price of only 99p. It can be pre-ordered here.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Damocles Files Volume One: Ragnarok Rising.

 Just over three years ago, my very good friend Benedict J Jones approached me with an offer to co-write some stories with him based on the exploits of a secret government organisation during World War Two whose remit was to investigate and combat the occult machinations of the Axis powers. I, of course, leapt at the chance. We’d already collaborated on the Dark Frontiers series of horror western novellas and know each other’s writing inside out, it was a real no-brainer for me.

So we began writing. As usual, Ben already had a huge array of characters ready formed to throw into action along with tons of background information on the organisation he had called Damocles. Using that as my starting point I launched myself into the writing, creating my own characters (and appropriating one I’d already used in some short stories).

It was soon after we’d started writing that the idea came to create an overarching storyline and present the stories as a novel with a fractured narrative rather than a straightforward collection. Which only made the project more exciting as far as I was concerned. And more of a challenge, it has to be said. There was a degree of retro-fitting going on once the stories were finished and one story in particular was re-written four times to adapt to the evolving narrative.

I loved every moment of it. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a writing process as much as I have creating The Damocles Files. The solitary nature of writing appeals to my hermit-in-training lifestyle and outlook on life but the whole process of co-authoring was amazing, with ideas sparking back and forth between us and, I have to admit, generating a sense of competition - seeing who could come up with the next plot twist or development in the narrative.

On the whole, we would write the individual stories on our own but on a couple of occasions we co-wrote a story. Most notably we did this for the novella that concludes the novel which has four different timelines running simultaneously. From what began as an idea for a collection of shorts, a 110,000 word epic has emerged and I couldn’t be prouder of the final product. I think it contains some of Ben’s best writing (and one of his darkest, most compelling characters), and I’m really pleased with what I contributed too.

The history has been meticulously researched and a number of real life events (and people) are featured in the storyline. It’s an unabashedly pulp novel full of derring-do, grand heroic gestures and noble sacrifice. It also has werewolves, undead Vikings, ancient mariners and ghost ships. There are twenty two stories in total, plus an epilogue, which range in length from a few hundred words to the aforementioned novella and cover the entirety (almost) of the war.

The artwork which graces the cover of the book is provided by Peter Frain of 77Studios, the creative genius responsible for (amongst many others) the covers of the Dark Minds novellas. His idea knocked the hugely unimaginative ones I’d had into a cocked hat and what he’s come up with is a perfect encapsulation of the feel of the book. The nods towards the design of a famous comic are done with love and respect as well as a huge amount of skill.

The novel will be available this summer. By way of whetting people’s appetites, and introducing Damocles and some of its employees, we decided to write a short story which we’d make available prior to release. As these things do, the short story became an 18,000 word novella… Wings in the Darkness is an expansion of one of the stories in the novel and will be released on May 21st. It’s available for pre-order now at the bargain price of 99p.

I loved working on The Damocles Files and hope the end product is as enjoyable to read as it was to write. And yes, this is Volume One – we’re 80,000 words into Volume Two which follows the same format but focuses on an entirely different theatre of the war. There'll be standalone short stories and novellas to come too. Exciting times!

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Under A Raven's Wing.


Under A Raven’s Wing
is a new collection of stories by Stephen Volk and is published by PS Publishing. The seven stories contained within this beautifully produced book describe the exploits of a young Sherlock Holmes and his tutelage, in the Paris of the 1870s, by another famous fictional detective C. Auguste Dupin. It’s a marvellous concept bringing together the two men - the veteran and the rookie - with the old master passing on his knowledge and wisdom to the young man at the beginning of his career, and something Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would heartily approve of I’m sure, having acknowledged his own debt to Poe’s detective when creating the character of Holmes.

All of the stories bar one are presented as letters from Holmes himself to Inspector Lestrade, written as the master detective nears the end of his own life; a neat inversion from the original stories in which the narrator was Holmes’ partner in crime(busting) Dr Watson. The final story, the incredibly poignant The Mercy of the Night, is the only one not to follow this format – except it sort of does. The bulk of the narrative is a letter from Dupin to Holmes – which finds its way to Lestrade nonetheless, courtesy of Holmes himself who adds his own correspondence as a coda, giving the whole thing the feeling of a story within a story, a dream within a dream.

I confess, the last sentence of that paragraph was a desperate attempt on my behalf to shoehorn a Poe reference in. And pretty awful it was – unlike those that are distributed about the book itself. There’s much joy to be had at spotting them – some are more obvious than others – and they’re an indication of just how much work has gone into producing these stories. The level of detail is astounding, in particular the recreation of the voices of the two fictional detectives both of which ring absolutely true.

With his wonderful Dark Masters Trilogy, Stephen showed himself a master at placing real people in fictional situations to produce compelling stories and insightful character studies. In Under A Raven’s Wing, he’s flipped that around, placing two fictional creations in real historical settings, populated by real people – including Jules Verne – and set against real events such as the dedication of the Statue of Liberty (a scene in which I believe I spotted an uncharacteristic lapse in the accuracy of Holmes’ recollections…) Jack the Ripper flits through one of the stories but there are nods to famous fictional characters too; the Phantom of the Opera and the Hunchback of Notre Dame also get honourable mentions.

There’s great skill employed then in the creation of this fictional/real world but the key to the success of any crime fiction – which is what this is after all – is in the plots themselves, the crimes which have to be solved. Once again, the author has come up trumps; the mysteries here are ones Poe and Conan Doyle would have been proud of creating themselves – seemingly impossible crimes which are solved by the characteristic application of logic and rationality. Whilst Holmes might be the main subject of the book, the nature of the mysteries he and Dupin solve owe more to the latter’s creator, most strikingly in Father of the Man which involves the plot device of a premature burial (and which is my favourite of the collection).

In truth, the book is an origins story, telling as it does of the apprenticeship of Holmes. As such, it does a marvellous job of inhabiting the character and even provides explanations for, and origins of, many of the great detective’s trademarks; the magnifying glass, the violin – even his drug addiction.

I really can’t express how impressed I was with Under A Raven’s Wing. The stories in here are some of the best to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes that I’ve read – and bear favourable comparison to the originals. It’s proof yet again that Stephen Volk is one of the most creative writers currently plying their trade and also one of the most skilled at his craft. It’s a book I recommend highly.