First published back in August of 1993, British splatterpunk legend Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Deadhead’ was one of the first of the author’s novels to really incorporate a solely thriller plot, without also including the author’s usual horror element alongside.

DLS Synopsis:
After Nick Ryan was reprimanded and then suspended for two weeks for breaking the jaw of a suspect, the then thirty-three-year-old Police Detective decides to hand in his resignation as soon as he is due to return to work.  Now, four years later, and business is booming for the private detective agency he since set up – Ryan Investigations.  In fact, business had been going so well that Ryan was looking at possibly relocating from the small office he currently worked from that looked over Charing Cross Road in the heart of London.

It was true that most of Ryan’s work came from the grimier aspects associated with divorce.  Ryan knew how tough it could be going through the collapse of a marriage.  Especially tough when a child was involved.  After all, it had been (and still was) hard for him.  He still missed the comfort of his ex-wife Kim Finlay, even now after the three years that had passed since their divorce.  But he stayed in touch.  He had to.  He still wanted to be a part of his fourteen-year-old daughter, Kelly Finlay’s life.  But it was never going to be easy with Kim having started up a whole new family and a whole new life with someone new.

But life goes on, and so Nick Ryan just continued with his work, immersing himself in the various cases to forget about his own personal issues.  But Ryan had another problem that he wasn’t prepared to face up to just yet.  He knew he wasn’t well.  Coughing up blood was never a good sign.  Especially in the proportions that he had been.  And it was getting worse.

Meanwhile, the body of an eighteen-year-old homeless boy named John Molloy had been found on Clapham Common.  With the macabre discovery of the heavily mutilated body, came the shocking reality that the serial killer who was murdering young homeless runaways in London had now taken his fifth victim.

And the recent murders were just another worry for twenty-eight-year-old Vincent Kiernan to add to the collection that had been weighing heavily on his mind.  After his seventeen-year-old sister, Josephine Kiernan, went missing, Vincent had been tirelessly searching the length and breadth of the country for her.  And now he was in London, with a murderer on the loose, killing and mutilating homeless youngsters from the uncaring city streets.

Elsewhere, Joseph Finlay had his own problems.  Charles Thornton was after a particular property that Finlay owned.  And what Charles Thornton wanted, he usually got.  One way or the other.  Having ruled London’s gangland for the last fifteen years, Thornton was certainly someone that you wanted onside.  But Finlay had his own interests in keeping the deserted premises for himself.  And he wasn’t about to back down to Thornton’s intimidations.

But when Kelly Finlay is kidnapped, Joseph Finlay knows that he’s trapped in a corner with very little options.  He knows that he can’t go to the police.  And he quickly realises that he has only one person who he can turn to for help - Nick Ryan.  And although his health is failing him, Ryan knows that he has this one last job which he must see out to the end.  This one last job that he cannot fail on.  This one last job to get back his daughter...


DLS Review:
Here we have our splatterpunk hero donning a gritty-crime-thriller hat instead of the author’s much more well-worn horror one.  And by Jove doesn’t he do well!  Hutson’s hard-edge and gritty, yet at the same time ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek nature works perfectly with the novel’s urban-underbelly-plot and in-your-face gangland terror.  Bundle in a bucket load of bloodshed and uncensored violence, and you’ve got a truly winning formula – well for this reviewer at the very least!

Okay, so the novel’s still written by Hutson, so expect the usual flamboyance with realism, exaggerated characters, and a generally simplistic writing style.  But it’s one hell of an entertaining read nevertheless.  And with tackling some potentially difficult topics, such as rape, child abduction and torture, Hutson still keeps to his signature ‘no-holds-barred’ approach, whilst really avoiding taking too much of the real-life side of the subject matters to hand.

Characterisation is what you’d expect from Hutson.  Nick Ryan is our hard-edged protagonist.  He’s a classic James Herbert style of anti-hero, without the depth or whimsical charm.  He has a particular role and clearly defined characteristics which Hutson prints across the character’s profile in black and white from the outset.  After all, Hutson’s got no desire to go any further with the character (or indeed any other characters) than the skeleton basics.  They’ve got a job to do in the whole grand scheme of the plot, and Hutson just pushes forward with it and nothing else.

And that’s the key to enjoying ‘Deadhead’ and indeed any other Hutson novel.  Don’t go into the book expecting too much in the way of characterisation, writing ability, cunning plot twists or clever new ideas – and then you won’t be disappointed.  Hutson deals with high-adrenaline, fast-paced action, often immersed in bursts of terror, horror and tight suspense.  It’s all about cranking up the excitement of the book and making it just one hell of an entertaining read.  Nothing more.  And ‘Deadhead’ delivers all of this in absolute abundance.

The violence and torture does veer towards the graphic at times, with the general theme of the book being of a strong and quite uncompromising nature.  With a predominant thread in the storyline closely akin to that of Joel Schumacher’s film ‘8mm’ (1999), Hutson gets down to the bone with a quite sinister snuff filming plot that, although delivered in his usual somewhat detached manner, nevertheless maintains a harsh and quite chilling element.

Expect nothing less than pure entertainment from the start until the explosive ‘The Wild Bunch’ (1969) ending.  The action is intense and suitably gritty, with a storyline throbbing with tension and suspense.  This is one of those Hutson novels that you’ll not want to miss you by.

The novel runs for a total of 326 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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