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The Unholy

Novel by Michael Falconer Anderson (UK) 1987.

The sleepy town of Batforth erupts into violence and horror when a speeding passenger train derails just before reaching their station. Then people start dying, in bizarre and inexplicable ways. Jon Hammond, editor of the local newspaper, was on the train when it crashed, and is perfectly placed to hear a growing number of reports of weird things happening. And it all comes down to a mysterious metal box, carefully transported in from Russia.

Anderson's first novel, The Woodsmen, was a fun but inconsequential simple slasher story. His second book is superior in every way. To start with, The Unholy actually has a plot which, though much of it is shamelessly stolen from James Herbert's The Survivor, unfolds nicely and has a useful device in the box. It is obviously the most important thing in the story, but the reader is kept guessing what is actually inside it. The characters are still not much more than stereotypes, but at least they've become far more three-dimensional. There's a background to the story, there's a range of characters to fill it out (The Woodsmen only had seven people in it!) and there's an atmosphere that builds constantly. The only real flaw is the opening which somehow doesn't grab as it should, but that's a minor gripe for a competent and enjoyable novel, a marked improvement over Anderson's last book, and which promised much for his next, God of a Thousand Faces.


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