“Brutality! Seediness! Controversy!” – THE PHOENIX HOUR by Paula R.C. Readman reviewed

The blurb: In 2055, humanity is on the brink of extinction after the misuse of an Intellectual Improvement drug.

Doctor Louise Brimstone is facing mounting pressure from Professor Davidson. She must find a way of creating genetically matching babies for the wealthy clientele at Hartley Research Centre of Excellence.

Louise wants to rectify the problem by the use of a time machine hidden in the cellar at the centre, but she is only able to travel back to the year 1900. In the past, Louise soon succumbs to the charms of Sir Charles Aldringham.

Aldringham’s mission to destroy two wealthy families who defrauded him is nearing completion, but first he draws Louise into his depraved blackmailing schemes – leaving her to dispose of the mutilated bodies of young women.

Will Louise discover the means to save the future by harvesting eggs from the past?

Time is ticking, but for whom?

The review: This is a tricky one to review without giving away too much of the twists and turns of the plot because there are so many of them, but I’ll give it my best shot. Here goes…

When it’s revealed in the first few pages that sometime in the past the protagonist’s parents were killed in an unexplained car crash, you know things aren’t going to go smoothly, and so it is for scientist Dr Louise Brimstone in this sci-fi/horror/thriller/ mash-up from the author of Stone Angels and Seeking the Dark. It’s the year 2055 and the world has found itself in the grip of a population crisis, thanks to a drug designed to boost people’s intellectual capacity which also came with the side effect of making them infertile. Oops.

With his big pharma corporation under financial pressure, Louise’s boss dumps the responsibility for solving this little problem on her, and salvation comes from a truly unexpected source. Meanwhile, young woman in the 1900s are mysteriously disappearing. Are these two seemingly disparate occurrences linked? Of course they. It wouldn’t be much of a novel if they weren’t.

If you’ve read anything by Paula R.C. Readman before, you’ll know that she doesn’t flinch when it comes to depicting brutality, seediness, sex and controversial subjects – and I’m pleased to report that they are all present and correct here in The Phoenix Hour.

As the story unfolds in truly unexpected ways, among the subjects examined are how women on the bottom rung of the wealth ladder are exploited and abused by the men at the top, the dangers of mob justice and – crucially – how far a person will go to save their own skin as well as the world’s population.

This is a unique story full of compelling characters, surprising twists and genuine horror. I thought it was great and I can’t wait to see what Paula has in store for us next. Whatever it is, I hope it’s as distinctive and startling as this. Bravo!

The bio: Paula R. C. Readman was born in Essex and has family roots in Whitby, North Yorkshire. She’s married. After leaving school with no qualifications, she worked in low-paying jobs until redundancy changed the direction of her life. Encouraged by her husband, she taught herself how to write from books purchased from eBay.

In 2010 her first short story was published by English Heritage in an anthology. In 2012, she was the overall winner in the Writing Magazine/Harrogate Crime Festival Short Story competition. Since then she has had over other a hundred short stories and flash fiction published in various anthologies and online.

Paula writes mainly about the darker side of life in her gothic crime tales. Her first gothic crime novella is The Funeral Birds published by Demain Publishing and a collection of short dark tales published by Bridge House called Days Pass Like A Shadow. Her first full-length gothic crime novel, Stone Angels was published by Darkstroke Books in August 2020 and they also published her second gothic crime novel, Seeking the Dark in May 2021 and The Phoenix Hour in 2022.

Paula is busy writing a follow-on novel to The Funeral Birds called, As The Crow Flies. two graves and one body.

The Phoenix Hour by Paula R.C. Readman is available from Amazon.

Published by Richard E. Rock

Cat-loving, headbanging author of the dark and fantastical.

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