First published back in June of 1994, ‘The Secret Of Anatomy’ formed British author Mark Morris’ fourth full-length novel.
As the cold December wind lashed his face, David Fox stared out to sea on Starmouth beach whilst contemplating suicide. On the verge of his fortieth birthday, Fox had a lot on his mind. And when he noticed a bottle half-submerged in sand lying at his feet, he had absolutely no idea that the contents of the bottle would change his life so irreparably.
From inside the bottle, Fox extracts a small note pleading for help that was supposedly written by an eleven-year-old boy named John Marshall back in June of 1953. The note states that his father, Malcolm Marshall, is trying to kill him. From that moment on, David Fox feels that he has a new purpose in life. He becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the young boy who wrote the note.
His wife, Ellen Fox, soon becomes increasingly concerned when she finds out that her husband has not been turning up for work at Imperial Vision where he is a magazine editor. She asks David’s best friend, Ralph Joyce, to find out what is going on with her husband. But David’s life is now devoted to uncovering the truth behind the fate of the young boy in the note.
But others also seem to have a particularly strong interest in the contents of that washed-up bottle. Fox soon finds himself confronted by seventy-six year old Violet Turner offering to pay vast sums of money for the acquisition of the bottle on behalf of the Jewish tailor Max Fleischer. Fox knows now that he must be on to something big. Something important enough for someone to be willing to way ten-thousand pounds for without the blink of an eye.
His enquiries lead him to speaking with the aged Malcolm Marshall and from there to leaving everything behind, including his wife, and travelling to London where he can keep tabs on Marshall and hopefully discover the real story behind John Marshall’s apparent death from all those years ago.
And it’s here, in London, that David Fox will uncover life-adjusting revelations that ultimately lead to a mind-blowing underground and ancient cabal that are way beyond anything Fox would ever have dreamed possible. The Flux hold the power to modify their flesh, transform their very bodies into creations with unique powers. They are alike no other.
Under the direction of ‘The Oracle’ the Flux are being driven towards creating an existence of death and destruction. But some of these powerful beings have seen what is happening and moved away from The Flux. And now, together with David Fox’s help, these strange and powerful creations are at war with The Flux.
Amongst the many inhabitants of London, a battle is about to be waged between two almighty forces. The end result will have massive repercussions when the war is finally over. The streets of London are about to become a battleground for these two opposing forces of shape-shifting creations. Each side possessing powers beyond anything anyone has ever seen before.
Let the war commence…
Morris’ ‘The Secret Of Anatomy’ is so very Clive Barker it’s almost painful. And my god does the novel deliver the goods. From the start Morris projects an overall feeling of clinging unease, whilst our principal protagonist struggles through a particularly troubled period in his life. Furthermore, as the mystery surrounding John Marshall’s murder begins to unravel, so the tension and pace starts to crank up another notch.
And then the dark fantasy madness takes over. From then on it’s an absolute rollercoaster of a ride through a ‘Nightbreed’ style cabal of shape-shifting super-beings at war within the inner-urban setting of London. A fantastical array of well-defined and imaginative characters fill the pages of a monstrously engaging and ever-evolving read.
Nothing stays still for long in the tale. Something is always on the run. The threat of the Flux is always there, and it quickly swallows up the reader from when the Flux are first revealed for what they are.
The storyline progresses through a thick weave of intertwining subplots and chaotic character conflicts, mapping out an elaborate plot that spirals closer and closer to the final showdown that promises to deliver a justifiable conclusion – one way or the other. Sadly, this is where the novel really lets itself down. For the entirety of the tale up to this final stage, Morris has kept together a taut and character-rich tale, crammed to the rafters with action, suspense, imagination and chaotic excitement. But here, in the final stages of the tale, it sadly all falls down. Morris wraps the storyline and the final conflict up with one of the briefest, most unfulfilling and truly unsatisfying endings that may have ever been put to paper. In absolutely no way does the finale do the rest of the tale justice. It’s completely baffling why Morris would finish the tale in such a shoddy and rushed way.
However, trying hard to put aside the devastating way in which the tale concludes, ‘The Secret Of Anatomy’ is still a damn good read. Forgetting the shambles of the ending, the rest of the quite lengthy tale is quite frankly absolute dark fantasy genius. It’s compelling and enthralling, with a stunningly rich tapestry to the storyline to keep the reader completely captivated with the tale. But it’s those last ten to twenty pages that just drag the novel down. And it’s so unbelievably disappointing that it ends in such a way.
The novel runs for a total of 444 pages.
© DLS Reviews