Note: this review first appeared on Strogy.com
The Case of the Giant Carnivorous Worm (CGCW hereafter) is that rare breed of thing in the horror genre: an action comedy that is actually funny. While this is indeed more common in horror movies, it is less frequently seen in the written word. Thomas E. Staples in his debut horror novel manages to pull off that difficult act. With a very British style of humour akin to Douglas Adams. Think Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, but with a giant carnivorous worm. There is more than a touch of Terry Pratchett in Mr Staples’s writing too.
Anna Pendleton is our protagonist, along with sidekicks Maddie and Roberto. Anna is a young private detective starting out and struggling to make ends meet with her rather unorthodox methods. As luck would have it, strange things are afoot, strange unexplainable things that people tend not to want to go to the police with. Dogs and people are going missing. Giant sinkholes are opening up, sometimes under people’s homes. If only there was someone capable of believing the unbelievable and making the necessary deductive leaps.
One of the most enjoyable things about CGCW is the irreverent tone it strikes. The dialogue is fast and witty and peppered with appropriate swearing. Kind of like an early Tarantino, if he was British and a bit less into gangsters, and watched a lot of Monty Python. Occasionally, the clip of the dialogue was a smidge too fast for me and I had to reread it. However this was only occasionally. The dialogue always served the characters and kept the story moving.
And that was a second very enjoyable thing about CGCW: it was action packed from the word go. Something was always happening to move the story along. If you love monsters, there are some great ones here, full of the joys of gore and general all around grossness, which worked perfectly with the anarchic tone of the story.
The story itself is a satisfying blend of character arcs with flaws being overcome, a mystery to be solved, and a dragon, or rather, a giant carnivorous worm, to be slain.
This is also clearly the first in the series. The denouement of the novel tantalisingly setting up the second instalment with equally weird goings-on, but with the world of Anna Pendleton becoming more expansive.
I for one will be looking forward to the next in the series.
This might be a niche novel, but Alessia James Patterson, when are they not. But if you like the mash up of horror, particularly with monsters, action and comedy, especially of the Douglas Adams/Terry Pratchett variety, then you’re in luck. And I didn’t even mention the book’s cover – it’s rather awesome, disproving the old adage.