Fiction Reviews

Ghost Virus

(2018) Graham Masterton, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, 424pp, ISBN 978-978-1-788-54504-4


A young woman pours acid over her body. A loving husband kills his wife. A headteacher throws her pupils out of a window. Who or what has made ordinary Londoners commit such horrific acts?

DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting police are at a loss. With no obvious connection between the killings, they fear a virus.

Something evil is stirring in the city. A supernatural force that infects its victims with a lust to murder. And Jerry and Jamila are powerless to stop it...

Wham, bam, thank you Graham! Lest, we forget, given his recent crime-writing output, that for some readers, Graham Masterton will be better known as a horror writer. I remember Joe R. Lansdale pointing out that Masterton has been writing horror almost as long as Stephen King, and who can forget the film version of his novel The Manitou? A novel which spawned six sequels. Masterton has had a colourful, and varied career since being born in Edinburgh seventy-three years ago, including a stint as editor of Mayfair and Penthouse magazines. Here, he is on top form, or over-the-top form. Really, you won’t believe parts of this book, and I won’t even attempt to outline them here, for fear of spoiling your enjoyment and perhaps putting you off reading it, because, frankly, as you get towards the novel it really is ridiculous, and yet you are hooked, probably on several bloody hooks that are sticking out of your body. Masterton has sucked you in, and you have to keep reading this gripping page-turner.

But before the virus madness starts, our two detectives – Pardow and Patel are investigating some random, yet gruesome murders in South London, which to Patel’s British Pakistani background look initially like honour killings, but as the pair dig deeper, it becomes clear that something deeper and darker is going on here, but what exactly? Could it be something supernatural? Pardow and Patel start to think so, but who is going to believe them especially when the killings are so random, only sharing a common degree of horror – death by acid, disembowelling, or having your arms and legs ripped off, and let’s not talk about what happens to the dog!

What you have here is a police procedural novel gone mad with added gore and horror. Without these it could easily have been a very good - and realistic – crime novel, including elements of racial tension and racism within the police force, but Masterton dials everything up to eleven as the story and the tension builds and builds and builds towards a climax that is reminiscent of James Herbert at his best - think The Fog, The Dark, even some of The Rats novels as the rules of law in a community collapse and people are fleeing from their lives, or hiding themselves away from… No spoilers here. Masterton could probably write this sort of stuff in his sleep, because it is incredibly well-written, and is a real page-turner, with sympathetic characters, a level-headed look at the Muslim world, and a great sense of place in Tooting and the surrounding area. If you want gore, and horror, and some good writing, look no further. And there is a bit of a shock ending, so perhaps we will see more of Pardow and Patel, I hope so.  Good, gory, old school horror fun, but perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was mine.  Sugar, anyone?

Ian Hunter

See also Arthur's take on Ghost Virus.


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