Menace by Gary Fry

menaceJane, a professional model, learns she’s pregnant by a B-list television star. She soldiers on alone, but while on an assignment posing for a cover of a book by a Yorkshire author her life begins to unravel: she glimpses a group of children in old-fashioned clothes who then disappear into thin air. Later, a nurse taking an ultrasound of Jane’s fetus is shaken by something she sees. And on top of it all Jane, a native Londoner, begins to affect a Yorkshire accent.

It’s a difficult pregnancy alright. But Jane’s a resourceful character; she does the research, and finds out the story behind the cover shoot that seemingly started the events, and learns her role in it all.

When there’s a baby on the way, it’s not too much of a leap to think of Rosemary’s Baby. A similar scenario plays out in Menace, but here it’s a rather convoluted scheme, even if it is solidly based on folklore (or, as I like to think, Iron Maiden‘s brilliant 1988 concept album). Nevertheless, the story starts out well – Jane, an admirably fleshed out character, is like a protagonist in a Ramsey Campbell novel, holding up bravely as her life gets increasingly weirder. It’s all good, with good characters, great atmosphere, an intriguing mystery, and a strong sense of, well, menace.

Sadly the ending doesn’t match; the subtlety is gone, far too much is explicitly spelled out, and the reveal proves to be both predictable and slightly over the top. But until then, it’s a good read.

***½ (3½/5)

An ebook novella, available now from DarkFuse. Visit the author’s site!

Lurker by Gary Fry

lurkerAn ebook novella from DarkFuse, Lurker (2013) is a Lovecraftian story in the tradition of Ramsey Campbell; elegantly understated, intensely atmospheric and superbly horrific. Set in Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, the story follows Meg, a woman who has just moved into the area after suffering a tragic miscarriage. While her husband works long hours in the city, Meg is free to roam her new environs.

And roam she does. Discovering the entrance to an abandoned mine, she unknowingly attracts the attention of the titular lurker. The next day, the wall of her house outside her bedroom window is decorated with muddy handprints. A girl is reported to have gone missing near the mine, and Meg thinks she glimpses something in the background of the newspaper photo. A dodgy pamphlet found in the library purports to explain it all, but its talk of some immortal creature from beyond the stars that cut off miners’ hands and heads so it could use them as tools is just crazytalk, right? And all the while Meg is also tormented by suspicions of her husband’s possible infidelity.

Is it all in her mind? There’s a strong psychological aspect to the story, giving room for interpretations. And it’s only Meg who seems to be aware of the creature, not at all unlike the poor narrator of Guy de Maupassant‘s classic story Le Horla. All the events in Lurker are seen and experienced through Meg’s perspective, and who knows how twisted that might be, after all the stress and insecurity the character’s been through.

That, however, doesn’t stop the story from going the tentacular full monty in the glorious finale; imagined or not, it’s all about pure, unadulterated horror of the cosmic variety, blasting away what little sanity poor Meg may have left at that point. As a horror story, Lurker delivers the goods, regardless of the interpretation. Highly recommended.

***** (5/5)

Available 12 Nov 2013 as an ebook from DarkFuse. Visit the author’s site.