This short novella follows Donald Hobdike, Manager of Works in a small town with secrets, and Michael Bassey, the young offender assigned to him as part of community service, as they venture into the old sewers below town. There is a blockage somewhere, causing somewhat disgusting problems in town, and they need to resolve whatever the problem below ground may be. The viewpoint alternates between the human characters, and a strange Other-Thing, possibly of extra-terrestrial origin, which is a bit menacing.
I picked this book to review during Rosie’s Review-A-Book-Challenge because I was intrigued by the promised setting. I think it’s hard to go very wrong setting a horror story inside confined, mysterious-to-most, English and Victorian sewage works.
And I did enjoy the atmosphere and suspense of this book. It’s spooky without being all-out terrifying, maintaining a nice balance between enjoyable suspense and foreboding, and providing some character development, and holds back from veering into too much gross-out horror or intensity. I don’t like my horror stories too intense.
However, I did unfortunately ultimately find myself somewhat disappointed in this story. The short-sentenced, snapped off style of writing took me a little aback, and I never quite got used to it, although it does help keep the pace moving. Most readers should have little trouble reading this novella in an hour and a half or so. There is some use of obscenities, and a little bit of violence, although it is not particularly graphic, and there are far far fewer poop jokes then there could have been. (I’m not complaining about that at all.) There is also some allusion to domestic and sexual abuse.
The two human characters are each fun, with cranktankerous Hobdike getting a few particularly amusing comments to share with us. There is a twist ending, which did take me by surprise. The ending is also rather dark. I prefer stories that end with more of a sense of hope, even in horror stories. This is of course a question of personal taste, but the bleakness at the end of the story was a disappointment to me.
Regular horror readers will likely enjoy the somewhat unusual setting and moodiness of the story, and I recommend it to horror fans looking for a quick read.
I want to thank both Rosie and the author for arranging a free copy for me to review. I give this novella 3 stars out of 5.