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THE SPIDER DANCE ***

Written by Nick Setchfield. RRP £7.99

Out 16th July from Titan Books

Horror and fantasy always could fit well in almost any genre. There's a wealth of romance, science fiction and even western horror novels. Yet, for some reason, the Spy genre seems oft avoided. Arguably, one could suggest that perhaps that's due to the Spy narratives reliance on real-world events to build their narrative. Yet one doesn't have to look long at the adventures of JAMES BOND and THE PRISONER, to realise there's minimal realism present. In the 1960s, when the former of these two properties was dominating cinema receipts the world over, a slew of quality spy fiction followed in his wake. While much of this material was equally whimsical, others were far bleaker and grittier in tone. This included the novels of John Le Carre and Len Deighton, their subsequent film adaptations and television programmes such as CALLAN. It's these that author Nick Sketchfield seems to have drawn from in crafting, THE SPIDER DANCE, his follow up novel to THE WAR IN THE DARK. Into this dark and murky world, he introduces a myriad of supernatural elements, and the result is a pulse-pounding thriller that's hard to put down.

 

Continuing the adventures of Setchfield's hero, Christopher Winter, SPIDER DANCE opens with him working for London's gangland and is an intriguing opening sequence. These moments remind Sketchfield's reader of the nature of the hero their dealing with and provide an excellent 'pre-title' sequence as it were. Of course, it isn't long before Winter finds himself back in the office of sinister intelligence head Sir Crispin Faulkner. SPIDER DANCE then immediately launches into a murky tale of 1960's espionage and occult/horror happenings and further expands upon Winters unusual background…

 

So far, I've made various illusions to cinematic spy-fiction, and indeed there is something about SPIDER DANCE and Setchfield's prose which feels like something that belongs in the screen. Action sequences are fast paced and long, the opening sequence, in particular, is a beautiful example of this, beginning with a slow build-up of tension before launching into an epic sequence full of bloody horror and heart-stopping thrills. Sketchfield also knows how to subvert the standard tropes of the genre he is utilising. Every time a sequence occurs that reminds his reader of similar ones in countless other works, he throws in a more unusual and horror-themed element that reminds his reader- this is a very different book.

 

Unfortunately, while usually masterful, Setchfield does occasionally overdo these two elements and cause the book to become slightly slowed down- or a little too cliched. With the action sequences, in particular, their cinematic nature does cause them to become a little 'busy' at points and therefore difficult to follow. The result is these two problems slow the story down and interfere with the mystery unfolding.

THE SPIDER DANCE is an attempt to merge two genres which are usually as diametrically opposed as any. It continues the story of THE WAR IN THE DARK, while further introducing new elements and revelling in it's dark and sinister world of espionage. For horror fans who like Le Carre on the side- this is a must.

 

Callum McKelvie

 

 

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