Wild Spaces – S.L Coney (Titan Books)

All the best horror stories are the ones that lull you into a false sense of security with vivid descriptions of idyllic dreamlike surroundings, that quickly disperse into some sort of nightmare scenario. It’s an old age trick, but retaining that balance remains a difficult technique to pull off for a writer and only a few truly do it justice. Taking their first steps towards a place next to the greats like Shirley Jackson and Stephen King is St. Louis native S.L Coney with their debut novel ‘Wild Spaces.’

Life is pretty sweet for an 11-year-old boy, living out a life exploring the sweeping beaches and coastline near his home where he lives with Mother, Father and his dog Teach. But somebody else also enters his life, when his estranged Grandfather shows up out of the blue much to the revulsion of his mother.  His presence causes a rift in the family that the boy finds hard to understand but as time goes on and the grandfather becomes increasingly comfortable with his surroundings, the boy watches every ounce of vigour leave what was once a loving home and a horrific long held family secret finally reveals itself. But the question is, can the boy escape his fate or does blood run too deep?

Coney perfectly paints the backdrop for the monstrous finale, using the classic beach/seafront environment for both the boys tranquil, idyllic home life and the transition to the unfolding horror, as only the sea can, but it’s the slow gradual shift that the grandfather’s presence causes where Coney’s writing excels culminating in the quick execution ending that jars the nerves, leaving you begging for more. Perfectly crafted horror that betrays the fact that this is Coney’s debut novel. Writing this good, takes far longer to achieve surely? If you are looking for something to chill your bones this autumn, then ‘Wild Spaces’ should be at the top of your list….Chris Andrews

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