THE CONCRETE GROVE BY GARY McMAHON
Imagine a place where all your nightmares become real. Think of dark urban streets where crime, debt and violence are not the only things to fear. Picture a housing project that is a gateway to somewhere else, a realm where ghosts and monsters stir hungrily in the shadows. Welcome to the Concrete Grove. It knows where you live… Gary McMahon’s chilling horror trilogy shows us a Britain many of us will recognise, while whispering of the terrible and arcane presences clawing against the boundaries of our reality! Book One in the Concrete Grove Trilogy.
It seems that, lately I am focusing on UK horror. the next load of books in my reading pile are all UK authors. There is a welcome renaissance in the genre, and leading the charge, in my opinion, anyway, is Gary McMahon. Gary is an author with an exceptional talent, his stories are in the main very downcast, gritty that elicit powerful emotions in the reader. Up hear we have a word that sums up this sort of thing “dour” At times Gary’s work his hard to read, he doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life, and what he puts his characters through is heart wrenching. Yet for all this doom and gloom, you’ll keep turning the pages, captivated and caught up with an author who is truly gifted with an expectational talent.
The Grove, is an unnamed estate in the north of England, a place full of people who are lost from society, stuck at the bottom of the pile, trying desperately to eke out some form of life. From Hailey, and her her mother Lana, trying to build a new life, Tom desperate to escape from his duty bound care of his paralysed cheating wife, to Monty Bright a disgusting loan shark and his gang of truly despicable cronies. These characters are real, unlike those of your typical Koontz novel, the wearing of white or black hats, do not distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. For the most part these people are not likeable, they are full of flaws and shortcomings, so it says a hell of a lot about Gary’s writing, that these characters enagage, and you do end up caring about them.
The fact that you end up caring for, and rooting for Francis Boater, Monty Bright’s main enforcer, is a revelation. This is a big violent, brute, an evil man, with no remorse, who has done really despicable acts. Yet the journey he sets out on leads to some form of redemption, you will feel sorry for him.
This is Urban Horror at it’s finest, that’s Urban horror folks, not urban fantasy, you not find some spunky teenage girl battling demons here. This horror that is firmly rooted in the real world, for the main the horror that the people of the Grove face, comes not from some supernatural source, but from the horror of their day to day lives. This is one of those stories that even if you took away the supernatural element, you would still be left with a great story, yes the writing is that good. That’s not to say the supernatural element feels tagged on. It deftly threads it’s way through the novel, giving an otherworldliness to the proceedings, a parallel world, that has been twisted and shaped into a weird mirror of our own.
The ending of the is story is perfect, just when you think it’s heading in one direction McMahon, kicks your legs from underneath you, and finishes the only way in which it could.
Everyone needs to buy this book, it is brilliant, if you want a point of reference, imagine the gritty urban realism of Ray Banks, mixed with twisted imagining of Clive Barker
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