Wednesday, 14 October 2009

‘Last Rites’ – Shaun Hutson (Orbit)


Unlike this time last year, I’m really trying to fit more spookiness and horror into my reading this month. If you’re not reading, or watching, any horror in the month of Halloween then there’s something wrong! (Unless you don’t like scary stuff and you’re anxiously waiting for November to come round, I understand...)
I’ve found Shaun Hutson’s work to be a bit of a mixed bag since I’ve been running the blog. Whether it’s a book that would come across better as a film or a book that maybe focuses on things best left implied (in my opinion anyway, although maybe that’s another discussion...), Hutson’s work hasn’t quite hit the spot for me. What can’t be denied though is the relentless energy and darkness that drives each plot along. This being the case, I’ll always find myself picking his new books up and giving them a go.
I finished ‘Last Rites’ and found myself wondering why I’d bothered. It’s not a bad read as such but it felt like I’d read it before. It didn’t just feel like I’d read it before, it felt like Shaun Hutson had already written it before...

Peter Mason’s life is going from bad to worse. His daughter has died, his marriage is in ruins and he’s just been almost beaten to death by a group of the children that he teaches. All Mason wants to do now is get out of London and start again somewhere else; a teaching position at a prestigious Buckinghamshire boarding school offers him the chance to do just that. Langley Hill boarding school has secrets of its own though, are they connected to the mysterious disappearances and suicides in the nearby village? Mason has to find out but will soon wish that he hadn’t, a centuries old evil is stirring and Mason will become its focus...

So there I was, working my way through ‘Last Rites’ and I couldn’t help but think that it all sounded very familiar to me. A dead daughter and a couple trying to work their way through the aftermath. A new beginning and a violent end... Then it struck me, the plot for ‘Last Rites’ is basically the same as Hutson’s ‘Nemesis’, up to and including the ending. There is a slight twist on the original plot but it is essentially the same thing.
It felt to me like a rehash of ‘Nemesis’, different setting but still the same stuff going on, and that pretty much killed it for me. I knew what was going to happen and I was proved right by the end. The result of this was that I couldn’t get into the book; I knew what was going to happen so there was no uncertainty to reel me in...

‘Last Rites’ also sees Hutson focus on the suicides/carnage etc with no real end product. A big deal is made at the beginning about this nameless evil but you never really find out much more other than that a bargain was made and how it’s a good job that people can’t see it. I don’t know if Hutson ran out of room or if this was a deliberate approach but being so upfront with the evil of humanity and then hiding the supernatural influence, that started it all, didn’t seem quite right to me. Building something up like that and then leaving it to hang leaves the book, as a whole, hanging. As a result, the book felt muddled to me, like it wasn’t sure what kind of a novel it wanted to be. This really hindered me in terms of being able to get into the story and get going with it.

The energy and darkness is still there but there’s nothing driving it and it just feels really aimless although it does add to the grim atmosphere of the piece. This wasn’t enough for me though...

‘Last Rites’ had some promise but ultimately failed to deliver for me. There’s something about Shaun Hutson though that means I’ll read his next book. I just hope it’s a better read than this one.

Four out of Ten

2 comments:

Fidelius said...

I've never ready any Hutson..and as a horror fan that's lame. Guess I won't start with this one though ;)

James B said...

Ouch. That must be the lowest score you've ever given anything you've actually ranked!