SILVERWEED ROAD by Simon Crook (BOOK REVIEW)
“When the truth escapes them, people turn to fiction. Murderers find comfort in lies. The paranoid seek truth in conspiracies. I am not a superstitious man. Superstition is a corruption of the facts. And yet…”
Silverweed Road is the debut horror anthology by Simon Crook. Entertaining, quirky and more than a little hair-raising, this is a collection of stories which revels in atmospheric old-school horror.
Short stories are not my usual kind of read, I tend to be one of those readers who will dip in and out of an anthology over quite a lengthy period of time, or just choose to read the stories by my favourite authors. However, I loved the idea of this anthology being set on one street, that each story was connected in various ways.
At first glance Silverweed Road is just like any other suburban street in England. It’s a quiet, sleepy area situated in a cul-de-sac on Corvid Estate, with a row of mock-Tudor houses leading up to the edge of the Woods. Look a little deeper, take a peek behind each door and you’ll see something is not quite right. Within each house a new nightmare unfolds, strange and unexplained events occur and soon the death toll surmounts. As we meander our way through each story Detective Inspector Jim Heath, who was the leading Kent Police investigator at the time of these deaths, looks back on his official case files. Jim cannot fathom why even years later each case remains unsolved, why a culprit was never found.
The anthology starts off strong with, The Jackdaw, which tells the story of a rather agitated senior man inside house No. 31. Victor Hagman is sixty, and after surviving a stroke, on strict doctors orders, he’s forced to recuperate at home. To pass the time Victor takes on a new hobby—gardening. He obsessively prunes and cares for his plants, checking for rot or weather damage and such. Much to his wife Patricia’s annoyance, Victor becomes a recluse, a man who snaps at any given moment, the kind of man who holds a grudge when he witnesses two jackdaws attacking his precious raspberries. As Victor enacts his revenge, a nightmare begins which escalates to a rather gruesome finale. Crook brilliantly built up Victor’s eccentric, paranoid and almost comical personality whilst also simultaneously building upon the atmosphere, tension and eventual horror. This story forms a solid foundation for the rest of the anthology, as the motif of jackdaws runs throughout, and paranoia, obsession and greed plague almost every character.
“Silver eyes scanned the clouds, awaiting a response. Something stirred within the Woods, answering their cry. Distant dots coiled and weaved, rising high above the trees.
They gathered in numbers, flocking together, a black mist forming in the storm. Once more they called. Ack-ack.”
Crook skilfully plays with various supernatural horrors and tropes throughout, he takes the tales of old and twists them into refreshing contemporary settings. It was extremely insightful and enhanced my reading experience to know where the inspiration for many of the stories emerged from, the icons who initially sparked the author’s love of horror. I had the opportunity to discuss this with Crook in an interview which you can read here to know more. I was surprised to learn that some inspiration came from an art piece and that Silverweed Road is an actual place. Whilst I won’t discuss every story, I will just briefly mention my two favourites. The first was Caught Red-handed, where we meet Augustus Fry, an antiques dealer who cons his way into owning a possessed ring. This story was perhaps the most gory! When we enter house No. 4 with the story titled Cuttlefish, Cuttlefish we encounter Dr Eric Akoto, a man seeking great scientific renown. As Eric experiments bonding with four cuttlefish and tries to decipher their language, he becomes entangled in their species far greater than he ever intended. I loved how this was written as a series of log entries, each entry becoming more intriguing yet also more disturbing. The latter summing up my new view of cuttlefish. Thanks for that Simon!
From knowing early on that the majority of the characters were going to die, in all honesty made some of the endings feel repetitive, although given that a lot of the characters weren’t exactly morally upstanding citizens, it was fun to see the various ways in which their deaths occurred. As we reach the final story, aptly titled Behind the Curtain, Crook fantastically brings together the entire anthology and shows his readers the bigger picture by delving into the history of the estate and the surrounding Woods. I loved how this finale ended on such an eerie ominous tone.
Silverweed Road is an anthology which takes the ordinary and turns it into something to be feared, something otherworldly. Crook’s style is equal measures atmospheric, mysterious and disturbing and will leave readers with a sense of bewilderment.
ARC provided by Emily at Harper Voyager UK in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the copy!
Silverweed Road is out now!