The Wolves of London by Mark Morris
Titan Books, 343pp standard paperback, £7.99 cover price
£2.99 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
Mark Morris has written a lot of books, many of them TV and movie tie-ins and shared worlds, covering the likes of Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spartacus, Zombie Circus and the blockbuster film, Noah. He’s written some stand alone horror stuff as well, like Toady, Stitch, etc. but The Wolves of London serves as the start of a new, rare trilogy and yes, there is some horror at its core, but it’s more in line with urban thrillers like the adventures of Bryant and May et al.
Beginning at a steady jog before stretching its legs and reaching out, this tells of Alex Locke, an ex-con who is forced back for ‘just one more job’ to help bail out his eldest daughter, Candice, whose boyfriend, Dean, has gone and got himself into a pickle after being set up by a dealer. Things rapidly spiral out of control when his youngest daughter gets kidnapped and Alex is forced into carrying out what appears at first to be a relatively simple burglary. The object in question is a small artefact, the obsidian black heart from which this trilogy takes its name, and of course, it turns out to be priceless, brooding, and indeed, unearthly. Burglary turns into murder, which turns into a man-on-the-run chase thriller, which in turn transforms into an escapade across time, with nefarious baddies, clockwork monstrosities, hybrid cronies, and nary a single trustworthy person in the whole damn book… oh yes, and a whole lot of vomiting and chucking up of guts, etc.
The tone throughout feels authentic, is written exclusively from Alex’s POV and as a reader, one can immediately sympathise with Alex’s plight — he could be any old dad trying to do what’s best for his daughter, and spends most of the novel as confused, messed-up and generally dumbfounded as we are as to just how much bad luck one person can have. And yet there is a sinuous thread which ties everything together, however precariously, and it’s onto this that our protagonist seems to hook his hopes, and in turn the reader, before dragging us through a very dark keyhole and into a city fit to bursting with Very Bad Things.
There’s plenty of horror, violence and general ‘nasty stuff’ going on all the time — a lot of it happening directly to Alex, and as the tension ramps up, so do the consequences, until we’re left breathing hard and fast with anticipation… And then… it all comes to an end!
Yes it sets up a great story and a fantastic framework, and will definitely leave the reader begging for more, and there’s nowt wrong with the writing or the pace of events, but I found it a tad cruel and disappointing there’s no decent ‘closure’ here — we are left asthmatic without our inhaler, and darn it if that doesn’t leave me choked… An excellent start, but make sure you at least grab the second one, as well — Book Two is called The Society of Blood… and should be out soon-ish [actually, already out: Society of Blood]. It’s well worth keeping an eye out for it.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here