Children have been going missing in Stormer Hill, a small Yorkshire town where the community lives in a permanent state of mourning and concern. Close by is Hanging Lee, a rock formation at the centre of a recent vanishing. The locals gather there to pray for those who are no longer with them and do their best to project hope into the world.
Author Alex Palmer is visiting from London to gather as much information as he can in the hope that he can use the material to create another best seller. He’s handsome, an ex-copper himself and, just like Stormer Hill, he’s haunted by the ghosts of his past. Showing Palmer round is DC Tom Nolan, a rough-and-ready grafter who’s seen plenty and knows his way round a murder investigation.
As we watch the author at work, the eerie mood of the case ever-darkens. The locals snub a book event in the library and it’s clear to see he’s not wanted there. He’s all ready to leave town when the plot takes a surprising turn and sharply alters the anticipated direction of the novel.
All the while, we get front seats at the theatre of hell run by the Ragman and his cult. These guys are seriously twisted. Their actions and beliefs are so outrageous that they’re almost impossible to be with, yet in Wallwork’s hands they’re also compelling killers who it’s impossible to look away from.
The key suspect for the most recent incident comes from a family who have rejected the system and live under the radar when they can. The matriarch, a fierce protector of her son, is something of a witch. She believes the best medicine comes in the form of home-made potions and old-fashioned remedies.
Throw all the parts together and you have an intriguing and ultra-dark read. In structure, it’s a police-procedural in the main, yet with its unflinching gaze into madness and depravity there’s also a strand of horror that comes very much to the fore. The title Bad People (US) doesn’t begin to cover it.
As well as being an engrossing story, there’s also a lot to enjoy in the telling of the tale. The handling of the description touches on the poetic at times, bringing setting and emotion to the fore in a wonderfully distilled and succinct way. Definitely one to get hold f.
To be read with the lights on in every room in the house.