THE HOLLOWS by Daniel Church.
Angry Robot Books. p/b. £9.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Police Constable Ellie Cheetham lives and works in the depths of the Peak District under a Sergeant she would describe as a coward and an avoider at best – and that would be to his face. So when she gets the call about a frozen body found in the snow, she assumes it is the usual situation – tourists unprepared and too far off the beaten path, or a drunk, slipped on the way home.
The body turns out to be that of Tony Harper, and everyone in Barsall knows the Harpers are the absolute worst kind of people and to be avoided at any cost. Still, this remote village is Ellie’s beat and arranging the body’s removal and notifying the next of kin – the dreaded Liz Harper – lands with her.
With the body being so close to home, on the edge of Harper land, no less, and with a definite, if unidentifiable, symbol drawn purposefully in charcoal near the body, it dawns on Ellie that what seems simple – if highly unpleasant – on the surface, may turn out to be far more.
The Hollows slowly unfolds the mysteries that begin with Tony Harper’s death. The pace is just right; as each short chapter ends, the reader cannot help but turn to read the next. There is a superb level of tension and menace throughout, as the supernatural meets a brilliantly crafted cast of characters. In Ellie, we have a determined lead who maintains a realistic and cynical view of society as she finds herself immersed ever so gradually into the unbelievable as well as the unwelcome.
In the Harpers, Church grants us very believable depictions of the most heinous, grotesque and undesirable members of this small society through expertly described imagery that comes alongside an assault on all the senses. Trigger warnings abound as classic elements of horror – snowy weather, failed communication devices, firepower versus monster – are combined with the worst humans on offer to deliver a compelling tale full of suspense.