The Faceless by Simon Bestwick

In the Lancashire town of Kempforth, people are vanishing. Mist hangs heavy in the streets, and in those mists move the masked figures the local kids call the Spindly Men. When two year old Roseanne Trevor disappears, Detective Chief Inspector Renwick vows to stop at nothing until she finds her. In Manchester, terrifying visions summon TV psychic Allen Cowell and his sister Vera back to the town they swore they’d left forever. And local historian Anna Mason pieces together a history of cruelty and exploitation almost beyond belief, born out of the horrors of war while in the decaying corridors and lightless rooms of a longabandoned hospital, something terrible is waiting for them all.

When Simon first announced this novel, it went straight to the top of my must reads / most anticipated lists for 2012.  The book sounded like another excellent entry into the new breed of intelligent and gritty UK horror, spearheaded by the likes of Gary MacMahon, Adam Nevill and Simon Kurt Unsworth.  So when it was finally released, I dropped everything else I was reading, and dove straight into this book.

I’ll be honest I found the first 30 pages or so to be pretty hard going, I just couldn’t get into the rhythm of the writing, and I was getting a little bit concerned.  However everything seemed to just click into place after about half and of reading, suddenly I was devouring this book, completely engrossed in the well plotted, creepy tension packed story.   The narrative is told from three viewpoints, that of the detectives investigating the case, Anna Mason, the local historian, investigating the going ons in a long abandoned hospital, and finally from the view point of TV psychic, Allen Cowell, and his sister.

It would have been easy to for all of these narratives to become messy and confusing, however Bestwick, intertwines these view points with great skill.  Breaking up the story are a set of testimonies from survivors from World War 1, while they added an extra dimension to the horror of the story, they did feel a little bit superfluous to the overall story.   However in the grand scheme of a novel that is so well written, these passages are a minor quibble.  

And thank you Simon, for introducing me to the Spindly Men, just what I needed, another fictional monster that refuses to leave my brain.  At least  they have some good company in there,  what with The Long Legged Men from Masterton’s Prey, and the Tall Tailor from Struwwelpeter, having a time share up there.    In this day and age it takes a lot of skill, and perhaps a truly deranged mind to come up with a monster that will terrify a reader, as much as The Spindly Men.  

The Faceless is a  modern masterpiece of British horror.  That after a slightly stuttering start, transforms into the must read horror novel of the year so far.  

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