Review: The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell

The prolific Mr. Campbell shows no signs of slowing down and produces another compelling and chilling read, close on the heels of last year’s, The Wise Friend.

This time he goes back to his own past, setting a tale of opportunistic spiritualism and post-war grief in his home city of Liverpool in the 1950s. This is a setting painted with myriad wounds, and every word betrays the very lived experience of it.

Our young protagonist, Dominic, is trying to find his feet at Catholic school, and squirming under the yoke of his parents expectations, when he becomes fascinated by a new local church and a man there who claims to be able to bring back the dead. When this same man, Mr Noble, shows up as a teacher at his new school, where such beliefs should not be acceptable, Dominic’s curiosity leads him to delve further into Noble’s activities and—well, curiosity does for meddlesome kids much what it does for cats.

This is a sprightly telling, where the customary horrific and eldritch goings-on—for which Campbell can always be relied upon—are mixed with a wry voice and clear affection for this novel’s very personal setting. Dominic and his friends, too, are rendered with a more kindly voice than Campbell usually reserves for his foolhardy protagonists. This only serves to up our investment considerably and heighten the threat that Noble poses.

This master storyteller has lost none of his command of darkness, even here: at his most humane and, maybe, sentimental. I always look forward to one of Ramsey’s books, but this was a particular pleasure and I highly recommend it to all.

You can find The Searching Dead here.

An ARC was kindly provided by Flametree Press in return for an honest review.

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