Horror comes in different guises, it can be dark, chilling, violent, bloody and psychological;
Simon Law’s second novel The Damaged is all of these themes.
The story starts in 1987 during ‘The Great Storm’. Law does a great job of writing about the eighties that is both familiar to those who remember it but also useful to readers who may not.
We are introduced to the Mason family, a typical middle class eighties family. Sandra Mason is an assistant manager at a bank and her husband George Mason is an architect. They live in middle class English suburb; exactly where is never disclosed but we know it's near London. The couple have a young son Matthew.
On the night of October 15th the Mason’s world comes crashing down when a homeless man wonders onto their street; the man eager to find shelter from the storm, seeks out help from George Mason.
The event that follows, is both shocking and sad. The Masons fight for their lives.
Matthew survives but is irrevocably damaged in the process.
Flash forward to 2012 and Tammy Atkins. Tammy is a troubled mother who is trying in vein to control her addictions to alcohol and razors while attempting to keep her fractured relationship with her five year old daughter intact.
Tammy works as a carer and travels to numerous patients daily. She is introduced to a now adult Matthew Mason through her work.
Their relationship is comforting, cordial and a much needed relief.
When Matthew decides to take his mental health care into his own hands, this creates a deadly catalyst within the plot.
Law is great at switching the narrative between both protagonists without it feeling jarring or confusing. He writes both characters well, even Tammy who in the wrong hands could seem stereotyped. Both character go through changes and while most change is good, for these two character it is not. Law never flinches when detailing their spiralling lives and writes every graphic detail of Matthew and Tammy’s unravelling. Just when you think these characters can't stoop any lower, they do, especially Matthew.
While Law is good at creating character and atmosphere with his descriptions, there are moments of unnecessary repetitive words. He tends over describe the actions of characters which can explain the sluggish pace in the beginning. However the pace does pick up half way through.
Despite the visceral violent acts described in the book, the story does leave you contemplating society and the way we treat people and how easily we can ignore or neglect those in need.
The ending is both satisfying and a surprise.
Overall The Damaged is chilling tale of two damaged protagonists and while I wasn't afraid, I was left deeply affected.
Simon Law is one to remember for all horror genre aficionados.
Written on 8th August 2016 by Tracey Holmes.
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