First published back in September of 2012, John Llewellyn Probert’s novella ‘The Nine Deaths Of Dr. Valentine’ formed the first instalment in his planned trilogy of Dr. Valentine stories.  The novella was later followed on with the gloriously titled ‘The Hammer Of Dr. Valentine’ (2014).

DLS Synopsis:
Early on a cold March morning, Detective Inspector Jeffrey Longden is called to the Clifton Suspension Bridge where a body had been found swinging from a chain wound around the neck and suspended a hundred feet above the river Avon.  Having been engulfed in a ball of flame, the corpse was still smouldering when Longden arrived on scene meeting with the very capable Sergeant Jenny Newham.

It not long before the charred remains of the victim are quickly cut down and whisked away to pathologist, Dr Richard Patterson.   They know that identifying the body is going to be a problematic task due to the fiery inferno it was found within.  That said, as strange as it seems, an initial inspection reveals that the victim had been dressed from head to toe in a gorilla suit.

Not long after this first gruesome discovery, a second body is found, this one impaled on one of the golden unicorn statues that sits atop of the Bristol Council House.  Eye witnesses describe a unicorn-shaped hot air balloon hovering above the statue before the bottom of the basket opened-up and the passenger fell to his doom.  And as Longden begins his questioning, the wife of the victim comes forward, identifying the deceased as Dr Evan Pritchard.

There is no doubt in Longden’s mind that there is a connection between the two incidents.  The city of Bristol has just seen two elaborately planned murders.  Furthermore, the press are straight on to the whole macabre affair, dubbing them “The Death Plunge Murders”.

And then a third victim is identified.  In front of an audience full of families and children, the paediatrician, Dr Martin Davies, is stung to death by close to fifty highly-venomous scorpions.  The staging of the murder couldn’t be more elaborate.

The pathologist’s daughter is the one to make the connection to these elaborate choices in murder.  It appears someone is killing doctors off by copying the deaths from a variety of Vincent Price movies.  And unfortunately for Longden and the rest of the investigating police force, Price shed a hell of a lot of blood within the many horror movies he appeared in over the years.  This elaborate death toll is likely to keep on rising…

DLS Review:
Absolutely fan-frigging-tastic.  What an ingenious and truly original idea for a trilogy of horror novellas.  And talk about instantly ensnaring a whole readership - by using a Hammer Horror legend for the inspiration behind a series of gruesome murders.  Absolute genius!

And the first thing you notice about the story is that author John Llewellyn Probert is clearly enjoying writing the novella every bit as much as we are in reading it.  Probert is undoubtedly a massive fan of the Hammer Horror era.  And his passion with the movies shows throughout the novella.  But it’s so much more than a mere homage.  It’s like finely crafted fan fiction taken to professional heights.  It’s Hammer Horror written by a true fan, for the fans.

At no point does Probert take his story too seriously.  Its camp in an over-the-top gruesome-pulp-horror way, with much more emphasis put on the sheer enjoyment of reading the novella than in any believability or any vague attempt at adhering to any realism.  This is wildly over-the-top horror in the true spirit of the early Hammer Horror titles.

There’s just so damn much in this novella to love.  It’s so wonderfully fast-paced, the dialogue is brash & brazen and straight-to-the-point, and the overall emphasis on the entire storyline is to get to the thrills and chills within the plot as often and swiftly as possible.  Indeed, Probert doesn’t get bogged-down with the ins and outs of dealing with character emotions or building up much in the way of characterisation.  There’s no need for it.  It’s quite simply one of the most entertaining and gloriously over-the-top horror romps I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.  And I mean that very sincerely.

If you want a couple of hours of pure unadulterated 60s and 70s style Hammer Horror entertainment, with bucket loads of blood and more gruesome murders than you can shake a stick at, then you need look no further than what Probert’s dishing up here.  I kid you not, this is some of the most fun I’ve ever had reading a novella.  From the very first flaming-corpse-encrusted page to the story’s truly spectacular finale, it’s a mile-a-minute revenge-inspired romp through some of the most elaborate cinematic deaths ever put to celluloid.

Get yourself a bucket load of popcorn, perhaps a good bottle of full-bodied vino to accompany it, and strap yourself in one hell of a wonderfully macabre ride.  Things are about to get very gruesome, and very very entertaining.

The novella runs for a total of 83 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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