Liverpool just after World War II and three students (the Tremendous Three), best friends Dominic Sheldrake, Jimmy, and Bobby (Roberta), are discovering that there is something dark and maybe sinister about Mr. Noble. Noble had been their teacher who, after bringing in his father to talk about his experiences in the war, suggested a trip to France so that the class might visit some battlefields. But Dominick believes that Mr. Noble is looking for a way to commune with the dead. The Tremendous Three recognize that it may be up to them to stop Mr. Noble, but Noble is always one step ahead and the teachers at their religious schools see only the need to put a damper on some overly-imaginative students.
When it comes to dark fantasy or horror, there are only a handful of authors whose work I will delightfully look for and Ramsey Campbell is high on that list.
This is not splatterpunk or horror that makes you jump from a sudden shock. This is a slow, methodical horror that creeps up on you and is at your heels before you even know it’s coming.
The book is rich with story. There’s a supernatural element to the horror but it is balanced so delicately with the ‘modern’ horrors of WWII that are still fresh in peoples’ minds. Our narrator is only a teen at this time, and because of this the unknown horrors of what his teacher is doing are the stronger, more frightening reality. For him the war is already a thing of the past, something he experiences second-hand.
The trusted guardian, the teacher Mr. Noble, is a perfect foil for Dominick and his friends. They know him, he seems like a good man, but they also feel as though they know him better than anyone else and no one seems to be taking their concerns seriously.
The horror here is honest and deep but this is really a story about character – Dominick’s character, specifically. How do we behave under such circumstances? How do we remember these things?
Looking for a good book? If you are looking for a dark, fast read, then this is not the book for you. But if you want to read something that will grow on you and imbue your soul with a little darkness, then Ramsey Campbell’s The Searching Dead is the book you should read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Searching Dead
author: Ramsey Campbell
series: The Three Births of Daoloth #1
publisher: PS Publishing
hardcover, 271 pages