The Reddening by Adam L.G. Nevill

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The Reddening is the first experience I have of the writer Adam Nevill and what better way to be introduced to this beast of UK Horror writing. I’ve heard of him, don’t get me wrong and I’ve watched the film of his work The Ritual – but picking up a physical copy of his work and devouring it has seemed to evaded my grasp, like the hope many of his characters are clambering after in The Reddening.

Lifestyle journalist Katrine escaped past traumas by moving to a coast renowned for seaside holidays and natural beauty. But when a vast hoard of human remains and prehistoric artefacts is discovered in nearby Brickburgh, a hideous shadow engulfs her life.

I feel that my lack of reading his work has also aided me in getting the best of Nevill, as they say writers get better the more they do what they love and I can only speak of The Reddening here (I’m sure his other books are also very good) but this is a triumph of a book and showcases a writer at the height of his game – each turn of the page took me deeper into a expertly crafted nightmare of what makes monsters of men and women and left me breathless after each opportunity I had to pick up the book and start reading.

Helene, a disillusioned lone parent, lost her brother, Lincoln, six years ago. Disturbing subterranean noises he recorded prior to vanishing, draw her to Brickburgh’s caves. A site where early humans butchered each other across sixty thousand years. Upon the walls, images of their nameless gods remain.

The Reddening is a slow burning horror that builds into an inescapable landslide of the macabre and twisted ritualistic butchery that was as beguiling as it is horrific. There is a rich vein of folklore sewn into the prose of this offering from Nevill that heightens the horror and grounds the story in a disturbing history that all want to keep hidden in the rocks that birthed this hideous discovery – but once it’s escaped its captivity there is no way of putting what has been discovered back where it belongs.

Amidst rumours of drug plantations and new sightings of the mythical red folk, it also appears that the inquisitive have been disappearing from this remote part of the world for years. A rural idyll where outsiders are unwelcome and where an infernal power is believed to linger beneath the earth. A timeless supernormal influence that only the desperate would dream of confronting. But to save themselves and those they love, and to thwart a crimson tide of pitiless barbarity, Kat and Helene are given no choice. They were involved and condemned before they knew it.

There is much to like of Nevill’s offering including his visceral prose, a haunting story which is supported by a delightfully crafted cast of characters (all of whom are fully realised – it’s all killer and no filler here – mark my words) and the added depth brought to the story with mythology and folklore make for one of the most immersive horror outings I’ve read in a long while. Also Nevill should be praised for his work around the location, his writing is able to transport us to the coast masterfully, from the rolling countryside, to the crumbling cliffs, to the white capped waters smashing the shore – Nevill is able to move us from the comfort of our homes to the place where his horror unfolds.

I have to say here that although I loved his immersive writing, at times I felt this was a little over used – long descriptions of the landscape, plants, mud, fences etc. seemed to drain from me the growing tension he’d masterfully conjured in the final third of the book and caused the story to lose some of the pace that had been richly injected into his prose. I wanted to be running into the chaos that was unfolding but Nevill restrains the prose with his descriptions – maybe this was a conscious piece of his writing craft, to slow us down before getting us going again, giving us a respite from the ensuing carnage? It’s a tiny criticism on what is a masterful story. It’s most probably down to personal taste because I did love his work on creating the environment (it reminded me of the masterful work Benjamin Myers did in The Offing), but I felt at times it was a little over done.

The horrors that Nevill paints are real and are as scary as hell, his no nonsense storytelling at times left me feeling breathless, sweaty and I had an unease that clung to me like a wet paper bag for hours after each reading session. But what I took from this book is that we have a writer who knows how to scare you, and the way he makes the horror human, revealing in disturbing clarity the darkness that lurks within the human condition – makes the story that much more striking and hard hitting.

The hills will be running red with the blood of the reader for some time to come, I feel that I’ve only just escaped this most captivating of horrors with my life – and I now battered and bruised, haunted and terrified look forward to discovering more of Nevill’s undoubted brilliance as I read through his other books!

The Reddening is published by Ritual Limited and is available here.

Adam L.G. Nevill

Adam L.G. Nevill was born in Birmingham, England, in 1969 and grew up in England and New Zealand. He is the author of the horror novels: ‘Banquet for the Damned’, ‘Apartment 16’, ‘The Ritual’, ‘Last Days’, ‘House of Small Shadows’, ‘No One Gets Out Alive’, ‘Lost Girl’, and ‘Under a Watchful Eye’. His first short story collection, ‘Some Will Not Sleep: Selected Horrors’, was published on Halloween, 2016, and won the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection. His second collection of short fiction, ‘Hasty for the Dark: Selected Horrors’ was published on Halloween 2017.

His novels, ‘The Ritual’, ‘Last Days’ and ‘No One Gets Out Alive’ were the winners of The August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. ‘The Ritual’ and ‘Last Days’ were also awarded Best in Category: Horror, by R.U.S.A. Several of his novels are currently in development for film and television, and in 2016 Imaginarium adapted ‘The Ritual’ into a major motion picture.

Adam also offers three free books to readers of horror: ‘Cries from the Crypt’ (downloadable from his website), ‘Before You Sleep’ and ‘Before You Wake’ (available from major online retailers).

Adam lives in Devon, England.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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