By Cooper Anderson
With a shady barman, creeps wearing sunglasses at night, and the mother of all hangovers, Hellhound by Lou Yardley is a dark and grisly modern-day telling of the werewolf mythos set in a strangely hot English summer. This month I got a chance to read the new release from Y Books Publishing and here is what I thought:
Just A Taste
Hellhound is the story about down on his luck and low on self-esteem Kit Byers and how a chance encounter at a random pub in summertime London changed his life forever. After retreating from another failed job interview, Kit finds himself in desperate need of a drink and sanctuary from the heat. He wanders into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn where he meets a charming barman who is used to the whoa and blather of pub patrons and decides to supply Kit with enough drinks to get him horizontal and then proceeds to pull Kit by the ankles into the back room of the pub.
Christine (our other main character of the story), who while waiting for a cab, also decides to pop into The Hound & The Philosopher Inn to get out of the heat. There she sees a pub patron who’s seen better days and has drunk himself into a belligerent mess on legs. The man tumbles backward onto the pub floor and is then dragged into the back room by the barman who never stops flashing his rogue-like smile. Finding her cab waiting for her outside, Christine decides to leave but not before hearing a loud, blood-curdling scream. A scream that nobody else seems to notice.
Unable to get the scream out of her head, Christine finds herself visited in the middle of the night by a strange man in dark sunglasses who tells her to stay away. To forget what she thinks she heard at The Hound & The Philosopher. That it’s going to get very painful and very messy if she doesn’t stay away. So, with a fresh dose of terror freshly applied, Christine does exactly what she knows she shouldn’t be doing. She goes back to the pub.
Meanwhile, Kit wakes from his drunken stupor to find himself naked and with a strange painful mark on the back of his neck. He finds his clothes waiting for him in a box with his name on it and quickly legs it home to sleep it off. But once he’s home, however, he soon notices something. Something about himself that’s not quite right…
I’m not going to spoil any more of the story for you. Like I said it’s just a taste.
The Delicious Bits
Hellhound has a lot of things going for it that I like to see in my horror books. There is a definite sense of unease that permeates throughout the book that leaves the reader on edge. Twists and turns can happen at any moment throughout the story and it’s not entirely predictable which is always a plus for horror writing. There is also a very ominous voice that is first introduced in the prologue and then shows up occasionally as thoughts implanted into the characters head which I think is a pretty inventive way to set the tone.
Classic elements of horror are also present throughout the book. There’s a smiling barman that you never feel comfortable enough to trust. Blackouts in houses that normally have power. Things that accentuate the genre that it’s in.
There’s also no “Heavy Lifting” when reading this book. You don’t have to ponder secretive character motivations or deep-rooted symbolism throughout the book. It’s just an easy read that you can do on a plane ride or at the beach and not feel bad about doing so.
The things that make Hellhound a fun read are also its biggest problems. The characters that we meet feel like horror movie characters. We meet them with little backstory and are thrown into the supernatural story of blood and gore. Here is the main character, here is the villain, here is the premise and off we go. We aren’t given enough information or background to care too much about the characters. It’s hard to care about Christine being threatened by a creep in sunglasses when we don’t really know anything about her. What kind of person is she? What does she care about? We don’t really know. However, this kind isn’t entirely a bad thing. The same things that I think are problematic are probably what a lot of people would find enjoyable. Just characters reacting to a horrifying situation. We tend to bring our preconceived notions as to the type of person Christine is because we know this archetype in the horror genre.
Hellhound is a book that I have no problem recommending to my friends who are casual readers. It’s a light non-complex book that does a decent job at making me want to turn the next page to find out what happens. It’s fun, it’s simple and above all, it has a lot of blood.
While this is her first standalone novel, Lou Yardley is also the author of THE OTHERS series, Jingle Bells (a novella), and the short story “Lydia.” You can find more of Lou Yardley and her work at LouYardley.com and @LouciferSpeaks on twitter