Our Book of the Month Review


A RASH OF MURDERS A young woman pours acid over her body. A loving husband kills his wife. A headteacher throws her pupils out of a window. Who or what has made ordinary Londoners commit such horrific acts?

A DEADLY VIRUS DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting police are at a loss. With no obvious connection between the killings, they fear a virus.

THE INFECTION IS SPREADING Something evil is stirring in the city. A supernatural force that infects its victims with a lust to murder. And Jerry and Jamila are powerless to stop it…

‘One of the most original and frightening storytellers of our time’ PETER JAMES

By Becky Hinshelwood

For a person who is no stranger to boxsets of Doctor Who and Silent Witness, I don’t much read horror. It never used to be this way. As a teen I would devour the Point Horror series (remember them?) until graduating to the more grisly end of police crime genre. However, in much the same way as I can no longer stomach roller coasters like I could as a teen, I’m a bit more squeamish nowadays when it comes to novels!

Graham Masterton’s Ghost Virus is a bit of a horror/crime hybrid. The book opens with a shockingly graphic suicide and then a brutal murder in quick succession. It’s clear from the outset that there are supernatural elements to all this, but the investigation begins very much as police procedural drama. Within Tooting police station we’re given some character background and suggestions of blossoming relationships within the department. Set against the realism of the police station, the series of crimes spiral further and further into the realms of the supernatural.

This descent into armageddon-like action makes the story feel a little bit Shaun of the Dead at times. Perhaps because of the various nods to zombie legend. You can quite easily play “spot the stiff” while reading this book since the majority of incidental characters introduced come to a sticky end. But, while this book is not a parody, it has no delusions of grandeur either. There’s a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek in Graham Masterton’s knowing tone. So in much the same way as an audience should visit a Christmas Pantomime in a certain state of mind, we also approach the idea of a spectral massacre as ‘normal’ when reading a supernatural horror novel!

Now, I have no qualms at all with the fantastically paranormal and I’m actually quite partial to a descent into surreal chaos, but I do also like a layer of explanation. No matter how farfetched a plot wants to go, I’ll happily trot along hand in hand as long as there’s a tightly woven argument to back it up. In this respect I found the story slightly lacking. When a reader is offered an alternate reality, there should be clear boundaries and rules to the action. In this way, I was left wanting more from the plot reveals at the close, but perhaps that’s just me being greedy!

Because it can’t be denied that Ghost Virus is a real page turner. It had me up into the wee small hours to get through just one more chapter… and then another. It’s clear that Graham Masterton is well versed in keeping his readers engaged. The action proceeds apace and the body count sky rockets. It certainly kept me reading, even if at the same time I found it increasingly tricky to get to sleep!

Part of the readability of this book admittedly comes from the level of graphic gore. Some of it was a bit much for me, especially when it comes to young children (I refer back to my rollercoaster analogy, I’m just weaker stomached these days). I had to wince and read slightly more vaguely during some of the more gruesome passages. I would have felt more of a sense of balance to the carnage if I’d been more satisfied by the consolidation of the narrative. Specifically, I would have loved to have learnt more of the back story of the murderous coat-spirit and understood the rules of the supernatural contagion a little better.

It’s true to say that I have a pretty overactive imagination. Maybe this is the reason that I normally avoid extreme horror. Once I’ve closed the book and turned off the light it’s a while before the words leave my brain. So, despite how farfetched the concept of murderous second-hand attire may be, it’ll be a little while before I browse the rails of charity shops for coats…

If Becky’s review has inspired you to read more, then you can buy your copy HERE + free UK delivery. Published by Head of Zeus