First published in August of 2011, British author G.R Yeates’ novel ‘Shapes In the Mist’ followed-up from his debut novel ‘The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011), which together form the first two instalments into the much larger ‘Vetala Cycle’ series.

DLS Synopsis:
It’s 1917 and WW1 American fighter-pilot Jerry Reinhart is flying over enemy ground, shooting down German observation zeppelins with the ease of a master pilot.  All was going well until he lowers his guard for a second upon approaching the last zeppelin, finding himself suddenly ambushed by a small squadron of enemy fighter planes.  The American manages to bring down the ambushing enemy fighters, but finds his plane at a loss against that of the notorious German ace – Baron von Richtofen who is on his tail. 

Ditching into the Black Forest that rushes up to greet the American fighter-pilot, Reinhart stumbles away from the wreck of his fighter-plane, but before losing all consciousness, he witnesses vague blurs of reality and haunting shapes in the mist around him.  For a second he is surrounded, and then the veil of unconsciousness swallows up the wounded man.

As if waking from a dream, Reinhart gradually becomes aware that he is back in the grimy city of London and waiting amongst the fellow wounded.  Unsure where he is or what he’s doing here, the American soon draws the unwanted attention of a nearby Military Police Redcap named Cutter, who quickly singles the man out unfairly deeming the man to be a deserter.  A brief fight erupts, leaving Reinhart fleeing the scene, now a wanted felon.

Seeking refuge amongst the seedy streets of London, Reinhart stumbles across the desperately poor widower - Liz Hope, who finds herself drawn to the dishevelled man.  But out on the unforgiving streets of Whitechapel the sudden re-emergence of a number of horrifically gruesome murders are once again terrorising the Londoners.  Over twenty years has passed since murders of such savagery were discovered.  Over twenty years since the hideous reign of terror caused by one man stalking the seedy streets of London.  Over twenty years since Jack last took a victim.  But now it looks like he’s back…

DLS Review:
Yeates returns with his second instalment into his ambitious twelve-part Vetala Cycle series, with another incredibly evocative and intensely dark vision of unnerving horror.  What becomes instantly clear is that the novel is monstrously oppressive and deeply atmospheric from the very outset.  Yeates’ wordplay is like a hypnotic dance with the darker side of the English language.  Indeed, his writing appears to be a living, breathing amalgamation of Lovecraft’s oozing imagery sliced and diced together with Ramsey Campbell’s surreal dreamlike prose and the downright soul-corrupting visions of early Clive Barker.

With that said, has Yeates pulled back somewhat with the heart-thumping intensity of the no-holds-barred splatter?  Perhaps just a little, but in its place is something much more haunting.  Where ‘The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011) clawed inside your head with barbaric visions of shocking horror, ‘Shapes In The Mist’ seeps under your skin with its sheer bleak depression, that never once lets up.  This is an unbelievably downbeat and clingingly morbid piece of fiction.  Barely a glimmer of any hopeful or enlightening emotion is present throughout the novel.   It grinds you down and swallows you whole.  And it’s unrelenting and utterly captivating for it.

What’s already beginning to form from these first two novels is the symbolic imagery utilised by the Vetala.  Rats burst from the pages in ‘The Eyes Of The Dead’ (2011) - ripping, chewing, clawing and biting their way through the readers skin.  Now, with this next instalment, maggots find themselves squirming their way into the storyline with their instantly repellent nature.  Appropriately symbolising the festering, decaying state of London’s underbelly during the later years of WW1, the symbolic use of the maggots is as provocative as it is plain old skin-crawling.

Yeates throws in the return of the near-mythical character of Jack The Ripper, drawing on the mystery behind this much visited true life monster.  Twisting and corrupting the character beyond our world of reality, Yeates drags the plot defining presence of Jack into the grim atmosphere that has already been so masterfully established.

Strong and provocative recurring lines such as the hauntingly suggestive “We be echo” (a misinterpreted translation from a gravestone that was referenced by modern day serial killer Peter Sutcliffe during his trial) stamp their mark on the reader as they become utterly immersed into this dank and depressive past.  What Yeates seems to be all too aware of is his ability to capture the right words, at the right time, and then carve them into the now vulnerable flesh of the readers’ brain.  The almost poetic prose that Yeates maintains throughout his writing is as mesmerising as it is chilling.  Those quick and simple lines that are revisited time and time again send shivers down the spine each and every time they are read.

The tale ends on a magnificently downbeat note, hammering away at the readers’ skull with the depressive horror of the novel brought to a final crescendo.  Yeates cuts open the limitless imagination he clearly has to draw upon, offering out the squirming residue of another truly intense vision of how to draw the novel to a final end.   Emotion is almost forgotten in place of the much more dominating desire to corrupt, repel and induce a growing feeling of despair.

This is nothing short of a masterclass in oppressive and evocative horror fiction – with layer upon layer of teeth gnawing away at the readers’ senses.  For powerfully suggestive wordplay and a return to the oozing Lovecraftian imagery of bygone days, look no further than Yeates’ work.  It’s like peering off a cliff edge into the hellish abyss that awaits below…

The novel runs for a total of 182 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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