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Shelter
L.H. Maynard and M.P.N. Sims
Leisure paperback £5.99 / $6.95

review by Mario Guslandi

Ranked among the finest writers (and rightly so) of dark short fiction in the indie press world Len Maynard and Mick Sims make their debut in the mass market with their first published novel. The fact itself is a remarkable event: very few authors manage to jump from the quiet but claustrophobic ghetto of the small press into the perilous waters of general bookstores and mass distribution. So congratulations and good luck to them...

The product, a paperback of 300 pages or so, appears to be perfect for entertaining, intriguing and chilling commuters sitting in crowded trains, vacationers sunbathing on sandy beaches, housewives lying on living room sofas. Success should be guaranteed. Moreover, the plot and the narrative style have such a movie-like character that I wouldn't be surprised to see the novel turned into a film in the near future.

The story starts out when Laura Craig, after breaking up with Brian Tanner, her business partner and bedfellow, devotes herself to restore a dilapidated house, left uninhabited for decades. But the house is not empty: beneath the cellar, unbeknown to her and to the realtors, lie hidden underground rooms giving shelter to a malevolent presence, lurking in the dark and waiting since a long time to satisfy its hunger and its needs. And when the workers accidentally unearth the secret chambers the inhuman horror turns loose. The wealthy neighbours, the Charteris, of course know a great deal about the nature and the origin of the dangerous creature formerly imprisoned under the house. Gradually, the dark, tragic family secret will be revealed, but I don't intend to spoil things by giving away too much.

Truth to tell, the ending is rather predictable and there are no twists in the tail, but the plot manages to grip the reader's attention for the whole book thanks to the authors' ability to masterly blend the supernatural and the horrific with a skilled depiction of social hypocrisy and a bit of romance. The vivid flashbacks describing the events taking place in the past at the beginning of the story are particularly effective. Thus, as I said before, the novel has all the right ingredients for achieving that commercial success that Maynard and Sims certainly deserve.

As a long time fan of the British duo I'm certainly happy for them. I admit I've enjoyed reading the book and I'm willing to recommend it to anyone looking for a solid horror novel devoid of gore and splatter. On the other hand, I feel a subtle sense of nostalgia for the old Maynard and Sims' production, those classy, elegant, exquisitely crafted stories able to subtly disquiet and unsettle with a simple word, a shuffled sound, the fickle movement of a shadow. Am I being too sentimental? Maybe so.
Shelter

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