Allison & Busby | 2017 (20 July) | 350p | Review copy | Buy the book
Fifteen years ago young Holly Wasson hung herself in her bedroom in 29 Barley Street, Menham in South London, amidst rumours and reports of poltergeist activity in the house. Holly’s older sister Rachel barely recovered from the trauma, leaving her home and mother behind as she made a new life for herself elsewhere. But now she has returned, called back by her childhood friend Jo Finch, and in the worst of circumstances. Their friend Steph Ellis has been killed, horrifically and publicly. The signs are ominous and frightening – has the poltergeist returned to Menham to finish what it began all those years ago? Psychic couple Bob and Joyce Hodges seem to think it has and they’re intent on gathering the original group of friends together to see it off once and for all.
The police are not quite sure what to make of it and so they call in Matt Hunter, a former minister and now a professor of sociology. Matt has had some success in the past with this sort of thing and he is determined to get to the truth of it all and put the idea of a poltergeist to rest. But what if it’s real?
Earlier this year Peter Laws introduced us to Matt Hunter in the sensational novel Purged and how brilliant it is to have the follow-up novel, Unleashed, so soon. Matt has done well from the success of his earlier case but otherwise the two novels aren’t connected and so you can read one without the other. I’d suggest you do, though, for the background information Purged provides about Matt and his family. Unleashed builds on the mood of Purged and takes us even deeper into the darkness of poltergeists, restless spirits, paranormal beliefs and, above all else, fear.
Unleashed presents a deliciously creepy portrait of fear and it grips completely from start to finish. The intensity is increased by the narrative which moves between Matt and other characters, especially Rachel, the young woman drawn back to the house that terrified her years before and killed her sister. 29 Barley Road is a chillingly modern interpretation of the Haunted House and it’s just as scary when viewed from the outside. What did people see on the rooftops? And what is wrong with the pets? But this novel isn’t a conventional horror story – it’s a clever thriller and the terror doesn’t always lie where expected. Although, having said that, there is a fantastic seance scene in Unleashed that scared the heebie jeebies out of me! I love to be scared by a book and this did a great job of it.
I love the character of Matt Hunter and I hope we enjoy many more books with Matt and his family. But in Unleashed Matt has to share the limelight with some great personalities, notably the Hodges and Rachel. Knowing who to trust here is as much a problem as pinning down a poltergeist and it makes for a great thriller with just the right amount of creepy chills.