Monday, 4 July 2016

Book review - 8 Church Field - Stuart Keane



For Stuart Keane's latest release we are thrown into the lives of the Elliott Family. Headed up by office manager and generally not nice person, Brian, his unhappy wife, Toni, bored in her marriage, their son Justin and daughter, Claire. Both children are the results of a haphazard and dysfunctional lifestyle and upbringing by their parents. They are the epitome of spoilt, petulant teenagers. Their angst and adolescent anger, dished around to their peers in their chosen places of battle; for Justin, the areas not covered by CCTV around his school, and for Claire, her social media stream.

Upon returning home - 8 Church Field, (I'll also let you in to a little secret that this was one of the author's real addresses whilst growing up) from leaving the office early one afternoon, and the rest of his employees in stifling conditions for no other reason than exercising his right to do so, Brian begins to run through the menial, day to day tasks of his mundane existence. Running through the usual batch of post and bills outlining his wife's latest stream of extravagant credit card transactions, and letters from Justin's school confirming his repeated truancy, we see the first glimpse of the reality of a man with his own demons and who is far from happy in his life situation. His irritations compounded by a run in with his teenage daughter, with her modern take on pointless politics and lectures about internet usage caps.

In a way, I'm sure a situation that most modern parents will be able to read, relate to and possibly shudder in shame and recognition.

Whilst settling down to dinner that evening, the family are disturbed by a knock at the door from  a mysterious stranger. The visitor will change the Elliott family's life forever.

Firstly, Keane has a knack for creating some of the most despicable characters that you will ever read. This, he does in various ways; whether its unadulterated, evil killers, chilling supernatural entities, or anything in between, they're all very realistic and very hard-hitting. In the case of Church Field, he manages to tap into a family that are individually so self absorbed that they are literally dripping with spite. An early scene with Brian shows exactly who he considers to be the top dog, his wife couldn't lie straight in bed (literally) and his two children are truly the type of kids that you would want to slap around the head.

Despite it sounding far fetched, the characters really work, and this is the solid basis for shaping the overall plot of the book. Its not too long and runs along at a steady pace until it hits the final quarter of the story where it takes a steep incline and shifts into a place that you really don't see coming. Along with the terror involved, there are some splendid nostalgic moments scattered through the story and a few pieces of cracking dialogue that I guarantee will put a smile upon your face.

In a little over a hundred pages, you will get a sharp, nasty tale of resentment, jealousy, betrayal and vengeance. Keane takes the classic, stranger at the door tale and gives it a whole contemporary flavour. What more could you ask for at a great price? I guarantee that most people that read this book will be able to relate to at least one of the scenario's played out. Some people may even be left with a wry smile on their faces in admiration.

Again, Keane delivers.

My rating 5/5