Author: Paul Magrs, 2011.
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance. Gothic Horror/Comedy.
Other Details: Hardback. 390 pages.
The novel opens in New York and introduces Shelley, a young woman who works for the Museum of Outsider Art. She is dating Daniel, her boss who is English and somewhat stuck-up. When Shelley discovers an artefact in the basement in the form of an bride-like effigy she makes it the centrepiece of their new exhibition. Nicknamed Bessie, it soon becomes a sensation in the NYC art scene. Meanwhile, Shelley's great aunt Liza, who adores old books, begins a correspondence with a bookseller based in Charing Cross Road, London. After receiving with delight a few parcels of obscure old horror and supernatural novels, she is surprised when the latest package contains what appears to be a grimoire stained with blood.
Even though Liza is repelled by the book, Daniel is keen to study it and it is not long before the book begins to show its influence. It initially stirs Bessie to life and later releases a vampire plague on NYC. In order to halt this potential end of the world scenario, Liza and her allies travel to London to visit the bookshop and hopefully discover the origin of the book.
This stand alone novel from Magrs felt a little darker than his Brenda & Effie series though certainly is in the same Gothic comedy territory. In this instance he also pokes fun at the popularity of the paranormal romance sub-genre, though without ruffling any identifiable egos. The novel also tips its hat in the direction of the modern classic 84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff.
It does start quite slowly but picks up pace later on. I feel this was in order to establish the cast of eccentric characters and their world before strange things start to happen. I enjoy Magrs' quirky style and especially admire how comfortable he is writing older female characters. I adored Liza , who combines wit and wisdom with a feisty edge. I wanted to learn more about her intriguing back story, which could probably spawn a series of its own. The ending does allow room for a sequel, so we may see some of the characters taking on the Forces of Darkness again.
Overall, intelligent and fun with darkness and mayhem.