REVIEW: Beneath London’s Fog

Iona Caldwell – FyreSyde Publishing – 10.30.2019 – 113 pages – Occult Horror

Jonathan is the immortal master of Raven Hollow Manor – a decrepit mansion riddled with superstition, murder and restless ghosts. Beneath it lies a restless malice.

Its previous owner driven mad, violently kills his guests with a rusted ax, creating the perfect venue for Jonathan to seclude himself in a prison of his own device.

When the streets of London begin to run red with blood; the bodies exhibiting disturbing signs and baffling wounds, the identity of the killer remains elusive to police.

The bodies are just the beginning of Jonathan’s troubles. A mysterious letter accusing Jonathan of committing the murders appear, raising suspicion in the police. Hidden beneath the mangled bodies, Jonathan soon realizes he is being forced to face demons he thought died in a forlorn past he attempted to escape. 

One thing Jonathan knows for certain: He must deal with the demons of his past if he is to survive his future. Not only him but those he has come to love as well.

When I received the information on this book, I… wasn’t so sure. Between the title, the cover, and the description, I thought this was just going to be another variation of Jack the Ripper, and not the first version I’ve read with a supernatural lean to it. I decided to give it a go anyways – 113 pages wouldn’t kill me, would it?

Boy was I wrong.

This book had me hooked from the very first line…

I want it known before the tale begins – I am not a hero but a villain. I want no sympathy from whomever reads this recalling of my story; no mourning for the tragedy that befell my life. I am not an innocent man but a sinner forced to face the ravaging demons and ghosts of his own creation.

… so hooked I read it all in one sitting.

Story

The story, written in first person, is of Jonathan Holloway, a man with secrets and a past. He lives in Raven Hollow Manor with his “daughter” Holly, a young woman who he saved from the police station when she was a child.

Gruesome murders are happening throughout London, murders that leave him worried about the safety of his daughter and others in the city, murders that remind him of his past. After witnessing the police laugh off the suggestion that something supernatural is at work, he starts investigating on his own, concerned that, because of the rumors that have been spread about his home, it will be him that is blamed for them.

After his daughter leaves home, unhappy with him treating her like a child, then quickly shows back up needing his help, he is thrust into an adventure that leads him to stand face to face with someone he had not seen in ages, someone he thought had died long ago.

Characters

I’ve been rather disappointed, over the last couple of months, in some of the books that I have read because of the lack of interest I had for any of the characters. At times, they were well written, but there was something almost boring about them. They were forgettable. Several hours later, I could remember what happened to them, but I couldn’t remember… them.

From the very beginning of this story, though, I was drawn to Jonathan. Even as he conveys to the reader that he is a bad guy, and points out why without always giving details, you see that he may have been a bad guy in the past, but he is clearly not one now. The love that he has for other characters in the book, the compassion he has for strangers that he meets, and the lengths that he’s willing to go to protect the city that he calls home, a city that has not always been nice to him and his daughter, shows that he is definitely a changed man from what he once was. I especially liked that she showed him having emotions, even if those emotions were hidden from others in the story, and that he made him not the typical character one would expect from him.

The protagonist in the story is well done. I liked the way that Iona gave us information about her. Instead of learning everything we need to know about her rather quickly, we learn just enough to realize that she is, in fact, the “bad guy” in this story, and then gradually learn even more information, deeper information, that tells us a lot about both her and Jonathan.

I especially liked the character of Annabelle Price. It’s not often you have a character that is… mute, for lack of a better word… and have so much revealed about her just through her actions and movements.

Setting

Raven Hollow Manor is the perfect setting for this story, which is interesting when you realize that Iona doesn’t really describe much about the place. It wasn’t until the flashback of Holly coming to his home for the first time that I realized, even then, it was a dilapidated building, her questioning why anyone would want to live there.

The manor is surrounded by woods, which you realize, when he’s walking through it, are quite large, and mask the location of the building perfectly, helpful considering he likes to keep to himself.

No wonder the neighbors talk… but at the same time, it feels really comfortable in the story, like home, even for the readers. I think, really, that’s because of the way that the talks about the place, with such love, even though the house has a history all its own, a history that I hope one day will be shared by the author.

On a side note: Have you looked at the cover? I have a deep fondness for books that use the setting on the story there, especially adding in little details that you only notice after you read the story.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • I usually fully dislike first-person narratives, as they often feel clunky and awkward. This, however, is very well written. It’s almost as if you’re reading a journal entry or letter, rather than an awkward conversation. It just… flows so smoothly, this story… and allows you to see his true feelings behind everything that is happening and almost feel yourself what he is feeling as the story progresses.
  • Sometimes flashbacks can be very jarring to the reader, but the author did a great job with them in this story.
  • I like that the author took a type of character that is used often in horror and dark fantasy books, but made it something different, and even had the character make almost a joke about the whole thing.

Cons:

  • I wanted to know so much more about the characters. Having interviewed the author, and hearing her say that her say that her works are all stand-alone, I’m a little disheartened that we may not see these characters again.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the best first-person narratives I’ve read in a long while. The characters were great and, even now, several days later, I can remember everything about them, including their names (I have the hardest time with names). I cared what happened to everyone involved, including the villain, on some level. To me, that’s impressive.

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