The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick

Rating 8.5/10
A cleverly written and perfectly paced haunted house tale

The Feast for All Souls is a cleverly written and perfectly paced haunted house tale by British author Simon Bestwick, author of previous works Tide of Souls and Hell’s Ditch.

The haunted house in question is 378 Collarmill Road, located on a hill outside Manchester. It is the house which grieving mother Alice Collier flees to after the inevitable break up of her marriage to Andrew following the death of their seven year old daughter, Emily. The problem is that the house stands at a gateway between worlds and something has awoken on the other side - and Alice is in its way. Old flame John Revell reluctantly comes to her aid when the house reveals it is a place of legends - of the Beast of Crawbeck and the Red Man. And more disturbingly it is the home to the secrets of the shadowy Arodias Thorne.

I like reading horror books but must confess to being far from an expert, or indeed well read in the genre. I liked James Herbert and Stephen King as a teen and have really enjoyed the books that fellow British horror author Adam Nevill has released over the recent years. My humble opinion (for what it’s worth) is that The Feast for All Souls is a really good British horror book. I was not aware of Simon Bestwick before, it was the book’s blurb and cover on Netgalley that initially hooked me and then a little research led me to discover just how respected Bestwick is in the industry. I felt I was onto a winner.

Each book review is of course subjective, each reader’s experience will differ due to a plethora of reasons. One things The Feast for All Souls had in its favour from the outset was that it is set in Manchester, in areas I not only know but have actually visited. This made it special. I’ve read many books set in London but very, very few set in my own back yard. And this was a big positive. The story is structured in a way I liked, using the present to introduce us to Alice and then using flashbacks to provide not only further insights into Alice’s earlier life but travelling almost two hundreds years back and allowing us to read the transcript of of Mary Carson, a young women who experienced some decidedly unfortunate experiences in the same location almost two hundred years previous. 

The author cleverly unveils the story by switching between 2016, the 1980s, 1990s and the early to late 19th century, timing the reveals to perfection so as to provide the most impact. This is a ghost story and does not revel in gore but relies on tension and a creeping feeling of menace to create a feeling of uneasiness in the reader. I like this type of novel.

The book’s lead is Alice, a woman almost beaten completely down by grief. As a parent of young children myself the death of a child is something I find more upsetting than anything the supernatural can throw at me, so I immediately empathised with Alice and felt the necessary emotional attachments as she battles depression and visitations.

I finished The Feast of All Souls in short order, always a good sign that I enjoyed a book, in fact enjoying it every bit as much as the Herbert and King novels I read in my teen years and as much as the Nevill books I have read in recent years. As previously mentioned I enjoyed the structure, it made it into the good old ‘page turner’ and I found myself reading more per day than I’d planned as I was interested in finding out exactly what was going on. Evil was portrayed in a realistic way, and the book’s main bad guy (whose shall remain nameless) was strangely empathetic. Yes, he was evil and half-mad but his backstory was one which some respect and empathy..

The pacing of the novel is great and it felt exactly the right length. I turned the last page both satisfied and impressed. The only negative I would utter is that some of the dialogue between Alice and John didn’t come across (to me) as authentic. Maybe one to many uses of the word ‘babe’ for my liking and some of the banter didn’t feel right. But this is likely just a personal thing, as is my immense dislike of the words smirk and smirking. I can’t stand this word for some reason.

Overall a very positive reading experience and an author I would not hesitate to read again.

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