Sunday, 30 March 2008

Guy N. Smith Book Review - Deathbell

Over his illustrious career, Guy N. Smith has lent his writing talents to a wide variety of subjects, including killer locusts, killer bats, killer pesticides, killer pheasants and, of course, killer crabs. But how many authors are brave enough to tackle such heady fare as killer percussive instruments?

In Deathbell, a mysterious stranger named Martyn Hamilton moves into the long deserted Caelogy Hall, along with his wife, his Chinese servant-girl Karamaneh and an ornate bell he picked up during his stay in Tibet. After it's installed in the belfry of his chapel, they are ringing it day and night and it is so fucking loud that deaf people can hear it.

Soon the villagers are dropping dead of brain hemorrhages and when his mother is the latest victim, Julian Dane returns to the village, determined to uncover the mystery of Caelogy Hall. The Noise Abatement Society is no help, their instruments show the volume of bell as being well below legal limits. The police are a bunch of useless bastards who refuse to believe the bell is responsible no matter how many people bleed from the ears and drop dead.

To make things worse, the sound of the Deathbell drives people homicidally insane. A local tough rapes and murders a girl. Then the village idiot rapes her corpse. Talk about a bad day! A couple of bank employees have mad monkey sex and then torture and kill their boss (Smith used to work in banking, I wonder if that part's autobiographical?) A bunch of people are killed when the village cathedral's stained glass windows suddenly explode during a packed service.

People are also experiencing visions of robed monks with no ears performing horrific rituals. What's up with that? Eventually Julian gets close to Karamaneh, but Martyn Hamilton always materialises out of nowhere when she's about to say anything. I won't spoil the ending, but it has something to do with an evil Tibetan cult. I wouldn't think Tibet to be a hotbed of Satanic cults, but whatever.

I think Guy N. Smith wrote this one when he lived next door to a guy who played loud techno at 3am. I imagine it would be pretty cathartic. It's pretty gory, even for Smith, and a few sex scenes appear out of nowhere, complete with hilarious turns of phrase e.g. "...nipples stiff and red, like cherries topping a sundae." Smith's characters are normally paper-thin, but they're a good quality 90 gsm parchment paper. Here they're like crumbling newsprint. I barely knew who the hero was, let alone cared what happened to him. He doesn't even find anything out until the last couple of pages, when Hamilton barfs up about two pages of exposition right before he dies (um, spoiler). Anyway, if you care about nitpicking details like characters and plot, this book isn't for you. Actually, Guy N. Smith probably isn't for you either, so why are you reading this?

Apparently there's a sequel called Demons. I hope it's about a Satanic aromatherapy candle called the Deathsmell that stinks out a whole village. People have nosebleeds and drop dead while experiencing visions of monks with no noses. How do they smell? Terrible! (Oh God, I'm so sorry)

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