Father William: Part 1 by Shaun McLaren – Book Review
Inevitably, when you put a priest in a horror story, there comes that question of trust. Do we trust that Father Merrin is able to beat evil in The Exorcist, seeing as he’s a last resort? Why should the Thorns trust the ramblings of Father Brennan in The Omen? There’s a healthy lack of trust in religion throughout many macabre tales, but the church is generally seen as a force of good.
Not so in Shaun McLaren’s Father William (Part one). Right from the off, you can tell the titular Father’s a wrong ‘un. That side is well hidden from the townspeople, until young girls start going missing. Suspicion grows as their disappearances are linked to offers of redemption by wicked old William. And just who are those weird masked figures hefting around wriggling sacks in the night?
The story has the rough, pulpy feel of a Guy N Smith novel, with the same kind of melodrama, mixed with overly floral descriptions of locations evocative of the time period. There are also constant reminders that men are men and women are women. Though where Smith added plenty of gore and nastiness to his B-movie shenanigans, there’s little here to make your spine feel chilly or guts feel like a faulty Indesit. The horrors are swift and brutal, but with a nasty edge that feels unpleasant more than unsettling.
Father William is definitely a rotter, but by the end he comes across more cartoony than scary, all sat on a throne waving a fist, Cobra Commander style. The story presents a more serious tone until then, with William coming across as a sneakily manipulative character. So seeing him literally tossing lackeys around really diminishes what went before. The same goes for the other characters, who flit and sit around without having much impact on anything, or each other. Sure, this is part one of a series, but as a starter, it leaves you more than a bit peckish for something meatier.
One final sin the book commits is coming to a screeching halt. No cliffhanger, no compelling reason to pick up the next part. Just a full stop, right as things seem like they might be getting interesting, and it’s a full stop that seems to answer the only question you might have. Maybe with room to grow, future instalments of Father William’s saga will be more compelling. I don’t trust I’ll be there to see them though.
Pick up a copy of Father William here:
Amazon UK: www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1521544034
Amazon US: www.amazon.com/dp/1521544034