Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Relics — a book with a fetid stench

RelicsRelics by Shaun Hutson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was on the “horror” shelf of the book shop, it had been reprinted, and was going cheap. I’d never read anything by the author before, so I thought it might be OK for some light bedtime reading. I suppose it does fit into the horror genre, just. It’s also a sort of half-baked whodunit (one of the main characters is a detective, though he doesn’t do much detecting).

I suppose in that there are some very faint echoes of Phil Rickman, who seems to hover uncertainly between the supernatural horror and whodunit genres, with his more recent works leaning (to my disappointment) to the latter. But Rickman’s books have character and plot; this book has neither. And Shaun Hutson seems to try to cover over the lack of such things by playing the grossout card, right from the very first chapter, going over the top with blood and gore. Oh and the obligatory sex scenes with “throbbing members” — it was, after all, first published in the 1980s, when most publishers seemed to make such scenes obligatory. In this book, however, they are combined with the “fetid stench” of still-throbbing freshly disembowelled entrails. The trouble is that when you have a “fetid stench” in every second chapter (and there are seventy chapters) one’s sense of literary smell tends to become a bit jaded.

The book has a bunch of archaeologists who discover a cave with inscriptions and skeletons. Some of them meet with nasty accidents, which apparently serve no purpose in the plot other than to provide the occasion for another grossout. The archaeologists seem to know as little about archaeology as the detectives do about detecting.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next book by Phil Rickman, and now at least I know that Shaun Hutson doesn’t fill the gap.

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