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The Soul Eater

Novel by Robert Alexander 1979.

University lecturer Michael Reed and his wife Sal have always loved the countryside, so they move from the city to the quiet country village of Stevely with their three children. Everything goes fine until their youngest son, Julian, falls to his death in the local churchyard. Though not religious, Michael becomes friendly with Stevely's vicar, Allan Stevens, who asks for help with regard to a problem that has plagued him for many years: in short, his church is decaying. There are no geological or structural faults, and this has been going on for over a hundred years. Also, if any part of the church is repaired, it starts falling apart again almost at once. Michael becomes fascinated with this problem, and starts his own investigation, which becomes concerned with local witchcraft sects and the desecration of other local churches. There also seems to be a 'Stevely Monster', a large bat-like creature which has been seen on the church tower. And with two previous vicars killed in freak accidents at the church, it all ties in to great danger for Michael and Allan.

This is written in a light, easy to read, style which doesn't seem to work to start with, but like Michael Reed's increasing interest in the problems of Stevely Church, gets better and better as the book progresses. There's nothing stunningly original here (though it's not an exact derivative of anything else either), but it's solidly written and it's difficult to find fault. And when everything comes to a head at the climax of the book, the 'monster' that is the cause of it all is a classic, and well worth waiting for. In short, this would make a great book to read on the train and it would probably make a halfway decent Hammer film as well.


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