I cannot believe it has taken me so long to read and review Last Days. Its author, Adam Nevill, has written two of the best horror books that I have read in recent times (Apartment 16 and The Ritual) but Last Days has sat on my desk for many, many months, simply imploring to be read but other review commitments took precedence. I also think I was subconsciously holding it back as a special treat…
In his latest offering Nevill explores notorious cults, subjugation and ancient evil in a book, that while fictional, has a real sense of authenticity. In 1975 a cult named the Temple of the Last Days, led by the infamous Sister Katherine, met a bloody end in the Arizona desert (I looked this cult up on Wikipedia to see if it had existed and if the book had been based on real events - it didn't and wasn't). The group’s rumoured mystical secrets and paranormal experiences have long lain concealed behind a history of murder, sexual deviancy and imprisonment.
Enter Kyle Freeman, financially challenged indie filmmaker who believes his luck has finally changed when he is paid handsomely to interview the remaining survivors of the Last Days in the cult’s original bases in London and France before finally visiting the crime scene where the cult met their bloody end.
But a series of uncanny events and unexplained phenomena plague the shoots and the sudden demise of the interviewees and the discovery of ghastly artefacts soon entangles Kyle within the cult’s hideous legacy.
Last Days has much that I have come to expect from Nevill. It features a relatable lead character, who, like his predecessors in the previous two books, is more bumbling through life that forging a successful path. And this I like, too many books seem to have leads that don't have full time jobs, who seem to have the luxury to do and go wherever they please, so I always find it more enjoyable to read about somebody with the everyday cares and worries that all us workers do. And the added bonus of showing us the mundane side of life is that it only serves to heighten the fantastical when it happens and therefore gives it that much more impact.
I was gripped on the tale from the very first page and although the Last Days cult did not exist its fictional creation owes much to two that did: Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple and David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians. And the seamless mix of fact and fiction is the real tour-de-force of Last Days, and why it feels so real.
Nevill never really uses gore, and if he does it is always minimal. He relies on tension to unnerve the reader - often it is what might happen that gives the scare rather than what does happen. And this is just how I like my horror.
I love Adam Nevill's work and will happily read everything he publishes. I feel like I'm guaranteed a well-structured, creepy and unsettling tale replete with people I can relate to. And I'm a simple man, it's all I ask for. I recommend Last Days highly, as I did Apartment 16 and The Ritual before it. Perfect for readers who like to be unsettled rather than grossed out.
Review by Floresiensis
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