Someone is killing doctors in the style of the murders in Vincent Price movies, leaving the Bristol police baffled. The only man who could possibly be responsible died years ago . . . or did he . . .?
The police in Bristol have been confronted by a series of the most perplexingly elaborate deaths they’ve ever encountered in all their years of murder enquiries. The only thing which connects them is their seemingly random nature and their sheer outrageousness. As Detective Inspector Longdon and his assistant Sergeant Jenny Newham (with the help of pathologist Dr. Richard Patterson) race against time to find the murderer, they eventually realise that the link which connects the killings is even more bizarre than any of them dared to think.
Hello readers and fellow devotees of the weird and terrorific,
Simon Marshall Jones‘ Spectral Press is one of the greatest small presses out there, in my opinion — producing high-quality chapbooks with great stories, beautiful cover art, and a unique, almost hand-made feel to them.
Their recent offering, The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert is no exception. Well, actually the content is a bit different than the norm, but more on that in the review itself.
In fact, enough monologuing, let’s get to the goods, shall we?
The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert is a little different than the usual Spectral Chapbook. It’s a little less scary than their usual fare; but what it lacks in chills it makes up in cleverness, excitement, and downright fun. Plus it’s got just enough horror to make the “scary” scenes all the more unnerving.
I put the word scary in quotes because T9DoDV (for short) is, at its heart, a revenge story; but one that is wrapped in a murder-mystery and dressed in the trappings of horror. The scarier parts of the book take place in the form of elaborate murder scenes, enacted by a hate-filled and vengeful villain with a flair for the theatrical.
All of the murders are (and don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler so much as a major plot element that is revealed very early in the narrative) intricate and carefully staged reenactments of scenes from various classic Vincent Price horror films. For anyone who spots the inspiration of the original movies as the scenes are unfolding, it adds another layer of suspense as you see what is coming while the hapless victims cluelessly fumble along their predetermined, and unavoidable, paths to death. If you don’t recognize the scenes while you’re reading the story, that’s OK, you’re still in for the treat of a handful of graphic, violent, and creative murders.
My only real complaint about this book (and this is a minor SPOILER ALERT) is that the perspective is mostly focused on Detective Inspector Jeffrey Longdon, except for the murder scenes which are all from the victims’ perspectives. So while the perspective does jump around a bit, Longdon is the only police officer to receive the “center of the lens,” so to speak. When the narrative suddenly shifts focus to his partner, Sergeant Jenny Newham near the end of the story, I thought it was jarring and too blatantly broadcast that she was about to find herself in some trouble at the hands of the evil mastermind…
But you’ll have to read the book yourself to find out what happens to her. And in my opinion, it is well worth the read.
T9DoDV may be a little less scary than the average Spectral Press chapbook, but don’t let that throw you off. It is fun and exciting and packed with enough thrills to more than make up for the lack of overt terror.
I give The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine 4.5 out of 5 tentacles.
Marc Nocerino – Assistant Editor (Columinst,Reviewer)