Mysterious child disappearances? Check. A boy who can see things – monsters – the grownups can’t? Check. An old man to act as wise mentor? Check. Everyday objects that seem to have an unexpected lifesaving purpose? Check.
On picking up Graham Kenyon’s Goth, you’d be forgiven for wondering if you’d picked up a 1980s Stephen King novel. The themes are familiar, if the style of writing isn’t quite so. Where King’s narrative moves at a pace, even in an epic like It or The Stand, Goth delights in the details. Whispers of Kenyon’s other influences abound in this, his first novel; CS Lewis, Tolkein, JK Rowling can all be heard.
Yes, there’s monsters haunting this town and they appear to be taking children. Strangely, the adults don’t seem too worried about the situation, the newspaper reporting them mostly as runaways. One even seems to live under the stairs at the home of our hero, 12 year old Ben – and his family doesn’t even notice. Ben is a likeable lad and his reactions to the Goths, like Rowling’s Harry Potter with Dementors, is at times visceral. You can feel his terror. You’ll want him to win, even if the children he might save are the ones you would have wanted to disappear when you were a kid!
Descriptions of the environments the characters inhabit are rich, and if that’s your cup of tea, then it’s a delight. At several points I certainly found myself lost in Kenyon’s descriptions of an idyllic England of the 1960s, where kids still played in the streets and their parents let them; where you could walk relatively safely through the abandoned places of a neighbourhood and the elders could tell stories of vibrant histories and the people who had once inhabited them.
Belief is hard to suspend though when the story reveals that our protagonist’s grandfather first killed one of the monsters, a Goth for whom the story is named, with a plastic toy sword in 1914. Just repeating that – with a plastic object that wouldn’t exist for another nearly fifty years. It’s these inconsistencies that distract from the story and in the end detracted from my experience as a reader – especially when crucial plot points hung on them. I could believe that there were monsters in the street, but not a plastic sword during WWI.
Ignoring the inconsistencies, Kenyon provides a gently rollicking horror story that moves toward a tense twist in the tale that certainly isn’t a happy ending. At about 500 pages though, it requires a dedicated fan of the genre to really enjoy. I’m still going to give some more of Kenyon’s work a go, so there must be enough of a kernel there…
Reviewed by Monica Leahy
Rating out of 10: 5
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: 3 January 2015
RRP: $3.67 Kindle ebook from amazon.com.au