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Bed of Nails - Michael Slade

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Genre: Horror / Author: Michael Slade / Paperback / 448 Pages / Book is published 2003-11 by Onyx Books

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      13.05.2009 20:37
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      Zinc faces demons from recent past when an old adversary desires revenge!

      Bed Of Nails is the tenth Michael Slade novel in the Special X series and takes us right back to one of their earlier titles, Ripper, by featuring the villan of that piece in a cameo role. The Ripper now languishes in an asylum for the criminally insane from whence there can be no escape, but that doesn't mean he can't plot and scheme between visits in his head back to Victorian London; where he revisits the crimes he believes he committed as the notorious Spring-heeled Jack. The main focus of his schemes and fantasies of revenge? Inspector Zinc Chandler of Special X; the man Ripper solely believes is responsible for his incarceration.....

      Cue a flashback for the series that takes us back in more ways than one. Crime writer Alexis Hunt, Zinc's girlfriend is still alive. Zinc is called out to a grisly murder scene in a seedy hotel room that echoes the Ripper murders in that the victim is crucified in the manner of the Tarot's Hanged Man card. Fans will remember that Ripper used the significance of the Tarot to recreate the murders of Jack The Ripper and open a portal between time and space through which he could travel. But Ripper is still locked away and so logic dictates that the killer is a copycat. A high speed chase results in the death of the two most likely suspects and it appears as though the case is closed. Eighteen months pass, Alexis Hunt is brutally murdered during the course of a separate murder investigation, and then the killings begin anew.....Zinc, close to burning out and distraught with grief, has been ordered to take some leave but puts it off whilst he tries to track down the killer. This trail leads him first to a Horror Writers Convention and then to a South Sea Island where he aims in secret to continue the investigation whilst publically declaring it is where he has chosen to take his leave. Once again, Zinc finds himself fighting for his life as history begins to repeat itself once more.....

      Bed Of Nails is an improvement on the last novel, Death's Door, but is still not up to the standard of the early Slade novels. The barrage of in-jokes and subtle Slade humour combine to make this an enjoyable horror thriller but there is again, as is Slade's habit, too much emphasis on historical details; this time much of the background reference concerns cannibilism and the age-old tradition of eating one's enemies looking,in paticular, at the voyages of Captain Cook that took him to the South Seas where he encountered cannibalistic natives.

      At times, it almost feels as though all the historical bumpf gets in the way of the plot and there were many moments here when my attention started to waver. That said, this is still a highly accomplished horror-thriller and you would be wrong if you thought that I didn't enjoy this despite a few faults that mean this is perhaps not quite as good as earlier entries in the series.

      The ending leaves the reader with an unresolved climax and there is some indication that Ripper may be back in the future for a reprise. Along with the return of Mephisto in the previous novel, this recurrence of the same old bad guys time and again smacks a little of desperation and would be, I believe, a mistake if that is the road down which Slade wishes to travel in the future. There is a strong sense, and Slade even suggests this, that many of these novels owe much to the cliff-hanger serials from Jay Clarke's youth but again, there are only so many times an author can throw his characters to the wolves before saving their hides in the final hour before it all becomes a bit repetitive, unimaginative, lazy and boring. There are strong indications that this series has started a slow decay and that these books have nearly approached the end of their shelf-life, but it is true to say that these are still highly accomplished works and still better than much of the crime fiction that is churned out today. It is just for long-time fans that over-familiarity .with characters and plots threatens to turn these books stale.

      Heres hoping that the next Special X novel sees a true return to form for the pseudonym that put the chiller back in the original serial thriller......

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