The Plague Stones – James Brogden (Titan Books)

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The idea, all-consuming dream and fantasies, of vengeance is a powerful ally and crutch for those wronged by the many tools and facets that life uses to enact and enhance its ongoing drama. Fixating on a single locus and finding someone, or a group of someone’s, to blame for the tragedies that befall us is an all too common pursuit and not so idle pastime and while, for the most part, such fancies serve as a shield to protect the psyche from any admission of personal guilt and responsibility, occasionally they are more than warranted.  Sometimes, all the troubles that have befallen you really are the fault of someone else and their selfishness and complete lack of empathy and any social and moral scruples.  Sometimes the only thing left is revenge and the burning desire to act on it, no matter how long it takes or how many souls are consumed it its wake.

Vengeance and the idea of its false promise of justice lies at the heart James Brogden’s masterclass in slow burn tension and horror, The Plague Stones. Pushed by fate to accept a legacy from a family member they barely knew, the Feenan family are suddenly propelled into a life that they could previously only dream about, one of idyllic rural bliss far from the crowded, violent city that they used to call home.  But dreams rarely come true, and if they do, there’s often a price to be paid. And the for the Feenan’s who find themselves caught in a centuries old battle between the custodians of the village they now call home and an ancient enemy whose thirst for vengeance has dictated the destinies of all who live within said villages boundaries, that price is a gruelling, gruesome and seemingly unending punishment.

Brogden’s story, as well as being a thrilling modern horror story is also a multi-layered tale that explores the class system’s historical lack of evolution and the values placed on the concept and ideas of family and a place to call home while magnifying the everyday, all too real, fears and worries that beset the public majority. His characterisation and plot are sublime and are woven together by his eloquent, yet eminently readable prose and a story that is, as my dear old departed Aunt Audrey was so fond of saying, a real page turner. I wasn’t aware of Brogden before I immersed myself in The Plague Stones, but rest assured on the strength of this haunting, tense and engaging novel, I’ll be making it my mission to track down his other books as soon as possible. I think, no I’m certain, that I’ve just stumbled across an author whose work I’ll, hopefully, be reading for a long, long time. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid… Tim Cundle

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