THE RETURN by David A. Riley
To paraphrase Shakespeare, there is something rotten in the Northern English town of Edgebottom, especially within the district of the appropriately named Grudge End. The ground there is sour, cursed for centuries perhaps. The powerful Malleson family have owned the now derelict mill at the epicentre of the area for decades, a family with some twisted secrets of their own. Over the years, countless horrors have occurred in Grudge End; brutal ritualistic murders, whole families massacred with their heads removed, and many others driven to insanity and suicide by the catalogue of ghastly events there.
Gary Morgan is a man with a rather shady past, to say the least. He grew up in Grudge End and when he was a teenager his drunken brute of a father was viciously butchered in what was believed by many locals to be an occult-related murder. Although having moved away from the area for quite some time, Gary’s own life has been shrouded with criminal connections and several failed marriages. He decides to return to his home town for one last time before the streets and mills where he spent his youth are pulled down for good. And to escape the clutches of some quite nasty London-based gangsters as well.
On his return, Gary bumps into an old school friend of his, Kevin Cross, whose increasingly manic paranoia surrounding ‘something’ in town is just the tip of the very dark iceberg of what is to follow. When Kevin has his arm savagely hacked off by a mysterious assailant, a series of events begin to unravel, all connected to Gary, the vile Malleson family, and the deep, ancient secrets of Edgebottom. As the bodies begin to mount up and the baffled police close in, something very Old is awakening from a long slumber…
Bloody hell, it really is grim up north! And down south in London too, it appears. Author David A. Riley presents us with an extremely violent, bleak, fantastically weaved tale that could perhaps best be described as H.P. Lovecraft meets the Kray twins via the kitchen sink British realism films of the late 1950s/early ‘60s. It is gloriously dark in Edgebottom, literally and figuratively, from the highly sinister occult goings on, to the East End gangsters out for their pound of flesh. Even the weather here is persistently miserable, with its torrential rain, bitter coldness and overcast skies.
Riley’s story is expertly created throughout, with the narrative point-of-view seamlessly switching between the main protagonist, the investigating police detectives, the gangsters, and so on. The building tension and mystery surrounding the town is both gripping and morbidly fascinating. When the real horror kicks in around the second half of the book, the appearance of the satyr-esque being is indeed a sight to behold. A truly terrifying, seemingly unstoppable creation of pure unadulterated evil.
There are the aforementioned homages to Lovecraft, more so towards the end, however these slide in perfectly to the rest of Riley’s tale, one that would still stand strong on its own even without the Lovecraftian influences.
A definite recommendation for fans of grim horror and HPL alike.