In Animus we return to the anti-Dibley (aka the village of Flammark) of author Polly J. Mordant’s gruesome imagination to catch up with our traumatised hero Emma Blake, her gifted chum Abigail and her dog-collared friend, neighbour and landlord Will.
If these guys are hoping for a little downtime following their harrowing adventures in When Angels Fear, then they’re shit out of luck as Flammark is rocked by an earthquake. Then the arrival of a sceptre-sporting dean called St Saviour sets a black cat among the pigeons. There is an extremely gory murder that drives deep into the heart of one of the principal characters. And before you can even so much as cross yourself, an evil outpouring from the bowels of the earth threatens to engulf the entire county.
There’s something very Hammer Horroresque about Animus and its aforementioned predecessor, and I’m a sucker for all that crows-cawing-and-church-bells-chiming-through-a-foggy-graveyard stuff. For me, a bit of English gothic is always a big plus. And in addition to the beguiling bats in the belfry atmosphere, what this book has in spades is good old fashioned excitement. You’ll notice that on the cover it says, ‘A supernatural thriller’. Well, it ain’t lying. There’s a strong sense of clock-ticking-down-to-doomsday here, and Mordant really knows how to twist that particular tourniquet.
What quickly becomes clear while reading this book is that our trusty author knows a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff; like about the Bible, about witchcraft, about paganism. Hell, even about fracking. The detail that supports the story is intricate and fascinating, and one suspects that she knows a lot of stuff about a lot of other stuff too. By the end of it I felt not only that I had been entertained, but educated.
The characters here are all fully-rounded and believable, and we feel their pain and share their triumphs as they lead us from opening to denouement. Also, the baddie is one of the most vile (and henceforth satisfying) that I’ve ever encountered in literature. My personal favourite character, however, is the irascible detective Westen. I love the way the f-count of Animus ratchets up every time he comes swaggering onto the page.
At the end of this book Mordant confidently teases us with the next in the Flammark series. I say bring it on!
Animus is available from Amazon. Try saying that three times.