Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words
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Darren Sant’s childhood was spent living between two large housing estates. The locations and characters provided the inspiration for Sant’s stories.
To learn more about the author visit his website.
Giles Macintosh is having anything but an ordinary day. First when he opens up he finds a bum (tramp) in the entrance to his building. He’s clearly unwell and Giles calls an ambulance. Second, he witnesses a very strange event. However, before Giles can properly make sense of it he learns his young son has terminal cancer.
Then Giles realizes the bum has skills that can help his family. But who are the mystery men also trying to find the bum? Frank wades in to help, for the sake of his son.
This novella makes an interesting read. It’s almost several genres in one. There are supernatural elements to it and there’s clearly crime and a degree of thriller. It’s by no means as gritty as Sant’s other work reviewed previously – Tales From The Longcroft but that is not an issue.
I don’t want to go into any detail regarding the strange event Giles witnesses as the whole story revolves around it. The ‘skill’ reminded me greatly of a Hollywood blockbuster, however Sant wraps it up in such a fashion that, despite my initial trepidation, works well.
The prose changes between chapters. When in the minds of the criminals after the bum, Frank, the writing is harsh and grim. When with Giles and Frank it is far more genteel – for example there is plenty of swearing in the former and virtually none in the latter. Again this is not a criticism, but an interesting style. As the two worlds collide, then so does the style.
The tension is strong and builds well as the story unfolds, the conclusion is a satisfactory mix of happiness and sadness. The characters are strong and well-drawn, in particular privileged Giles (who manages to stands up very well to his troubles) and Frank, who remains a somewhat enigmatic character throughout.
Here’s an example of the writing from one of the grittier chapters:
Rosie stood under the orange glow of a street lamp looking up and down the street. She stamped her feet, trying to keep out the cold. Her tight skirt, well above the knee, might as well have been vapour for all the warmth it affected. She blew cigarette smoke into the disdainful night, which tossed it back to her like a petulant lover.
Rating: **** Four Stars