Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Hell's Belles

by Paul Magrs


Since the publication of Bram Stoker's Dracula Whitby, with its dramatic cliffs and ruined gothic abbey, has had a hint of the supernatural. But only a hint. After all, how spooky can a place full of chippies, B&Bs, charity shops and tacky Christmas-themed hotels be? In Hell's Belles Paul Magrs mixes up gothic horror with chintz, kitsch, and the down-to-earth charms of a Yorkshire seaside resort.

This is the fourth book to feature Brenda and Effie, two unlikely-looking ladies who work to keep the forces of darkness from breaking out in the town. This story introduces Penny, a young goth woman who has just left her husband. She's hoping to start afresh in a different place, away from the stifling influence of her ex. But when a film crew turns up to shoot a remake of a horror movie, Penny begins to get a sense of just how different Whitby is.

Karla Sorenson is the ageless, vampy film star of the reputedly cursed original film and its modern remake. She's remarkably well-preserved for a woman in her 70s, and there's a certain whiff of sulphur and black magic about her. She seems to be able to wrap men around her little finger. But what is she trying to achieve with this devilish movie?

Meanwhile Robert, the manager of the Miramar hotel, is preoccupied by his new mystery man. There's something amiss about his latest beau. And Robert isn't the only one to experience relationship difficulties.

Paul Magrs' Whitby attracts all kinds of monsters and diabolical goings-on, so there's a bit of everything in Hell's Belles as all sorts of supernatural people fight for the upper hand. It makes for a good mystery, particularly when certain characters turn up who make it much harder for Brenda and Effie to do the right thing, or even to know what the right thing is.

There's actually more drama and less comedy than you might reasonably expect from a novel with as many zany characters as this one contains. But that's a good thing, because although the tone is fairly light it's never so fluffy that it ruins our empathy for the characters. So Hell's Belles turns out to be a gripping page-turner, with the added charm of pitting hellish and sinister threats against two bacon-sarnie-eating, no-nonsense Yorkshire women and their friends.

14th April 2010

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books


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4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Paul Magrs

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