First published back in September of 2003, British Horror author James Herbert’s tale ‘Nobody True’ returned with a horror/thriller crossover with a strong emotional overtone.

DLS Synopsis:
James True (known to all simply as Jim) is a successful advertising copyrighter.  Over the years he has built up his own advertising business with his fellow partners Oliver Guinane and Sydney Presswell.  Their partnership is growing by the day, with a handful of awards and major contracts under their collective belts.  For Guinane the next step for Guinane True Presswell (‘gtp’) is the merging with the major advertiser - Blake & Turnbrow.  But Jim True is strongly opposed to what he sees as a takeover.

Following a heated argument on just that matter, Guinane storms off from the hotel room where they had been working together on their proposal to hopefully secure a massive new client – by and large their biggest to date.  Alone, Jim drinks and then succumbs to another ‘out-of-body experience’ that he has been capable of at staggered points throughout his life so far. 

However, when he returns to his hotel room from his recent astral exploration across the city, Jim comes back to find his body has been savagely mutilated, leaving nothing but a bloody husk.  For all intents and purposes, Jim is now stuck as a bodiless entity – invisible to all, but for some reason unbeknown to him at the time, not quite on the same plane as ghosts (who Jim can now also see).

Jim’s murder looks to be the fourth in the line of murders by a sadistic serial killer that is currently at large.  The heavy mutilation combined with the bizarre piercing of the victims heart, are both common factors connecting the four murders together.  And as the murder investigation gets underway, Jim can observe its developments, as slowly the deceitful truths begin to emerge.

It appears that unbeknown to him, Jim True’s life has been filled with deceit and lies from the very people he trusted the most and was closest to.  He sees it now that no one was honest with him.  None of them were who they said they were.   As the truth gradually begins to come out of the woodwork, Jim begins to realise the gut-wrenching extent of the lies and deceit.  And he now begins to wonder “Was nobody true?”...

DLS Review:
Written in the first-person-perspective of our principal character – Jim True, the story is told in wistful hindsight, as Jim recalls the events that led to his death, the investigation, the revelation of all the lies and ultimately his part in it all.  Written in this manner, Herbert was able to incorporate a vast wealth of emotion from the perspective of Jim True – establishing an incredibly strong reader-to-character connection and an unbreakable empathy.

Essentially reworking the basic themes within ‘Moon’ (1985), the novel has gathered many of the more thought-provoking qualities and expanded on the concept to produce a much more fulfilling read.

The tale itself is a constantly downbeat and a smothering depressive one, with only brief bursts of light throughout its duration.  The pace itself is very staggered, more often than not veering towards the overly wordy and verbose, which simply drags the tale along at a plodding pace.  Although spending a large proportion of the novel building on the depth of our principal character and his close personal (and indeed working) life and relationships, Herbert does wade into the intricacies and elaborations of this a little too deeply, bogging the story down in too many layers to the characters’ lives.

The serial killer of Moker is portrayed in a gloriously vivid manner, with Herbert going to lengths to really depict the repulsive appearance of this pitiful character.  Much of these initial descriptions bring back memories of Herbert’s previous novel ‘Others’ (1999), with the graphically detailed intricacies of the human anatomy when it’s at its mutated to its most perverse.

A brutal scene of appalling degradation that is brought upon one of the serial killer’s victims is portrayed in quite a strong and shocking episode.  The scene is in a similar vain to (but certainly not going quite as far as) Hubert Selby Jr’s unforgettable finale of the ‘Tralala’ story in ‘Last Exit To Brooklyn’ (1966).  However, Herbert doesn’t pull off the same stomach-churning grittiness to the utterly degrading humiliation being performed that Selby Jr managed to achieve (thankfully, I’m sure some would say!).

Herbert throws in a handful of impactful twists which purposefully throw the reader’s understanding into disarray.  Although quite clever and relatively unpredictable, these still comes across as a little too contrived for the sheer sake of it.

The tale is wrapped up with one incredibly long-winded over-explanation which just goes too far with the near-OCD tidying up of everything.  Furthermore, the overabundance and utter overindulgence of the (at times quite nauseating) sentimentality that smothers the entirety of the tale, becomes just too monotonous by the end.  Quite literally the last ten or twenty odd pages of the novel are spent wadding through a quagmire of cringe worthy sentimental boredom.  This sadly lets the novel wind down as if it was a slowly dying old man, quietly pondering his final thoughts with no real substance to it or indeed any decisive direction.

All in all, it has to be said that ultimately it’s the pace that really lets the novel down.  The storyline seems to progress with a painstakingly forced air about it, grinding away at the detailed history of Jim and his decaying personal life.  The thrill of the serial killer plot is string, gripping and exciting.  However, this alone cannot rescue what is otherwise simply a mediocre supernatural read.

The novel runs for a total of 394 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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