There are Dark Forces at work in our world (and in Manchester in particular) and so thank God The Stranger Times is on hand to report them. A weekly newspaper dedicated to the weird and the wonderful (but more often the weird) of modern life, it is the go-to publication for the unexplained and inexplicable . . .
At least that’s their pitch. The reality is rather less auspicious. Their editor is a drunken, foul-tempered and foul-mouthed husk of a man who thinks little (and believes less) of the publication he edits, while his staff are a ragtag group of wastrels and misfits, each with their own secrets to hide and axes to grind. And as for the assistant editor . . . well, that job is a revolving door – and it has just revolved to reveal Hannah Willis, who’s got her own set of problems.
It’s when tragedy strikes in Hannah’s first week on the job that The Stranger Times is forced to do some serious, proper, actual investigative journalism. What they discover leads them to a shocking realisation: that some of the stories they’d previously dismissed as nonsense are in fact terrifyingly, gruesomely real. Soon they come face-to-face with darker foes than they could ever have imagined. It’s one thing reporting on the unexplained and paranormal but it’s quite another being dragged into the battle between the forces of Good and Evil . . .
A bit like Terry Pratchett meets The Fortean Times, this book is at times hilarious and at times too crazy for words. To be honest I prefer the parts about the newspaper and its eccentric employees to the forces of evil as I am not really into fantasy (apart from His Dark Materials). The banter in the office though, with newcomer Hannah who left her philandering husband and burnt their house down in the process, receptionist Grace, runaway Stella, and features writers Reggie and Ox is the best part. Then of course we have the dreadful and totally bonkers editor Vincent Banecroft who shoots himself in the foot with a blunderbuss and hobbles throughout the story on a crutch.
But it’s not all funny. There’s this short, fat, slap-head (not my un-PC words) American chap called Moretti going round controlling people’s minds, turning them into Were-monsters and making them do terrible things in exchange for a ‘favour’. All very Doctor Faustus and Mephistopheles. It turns out some of these people belong to the Folk. This is ancient mythology and involves immortality and such-like. There are rules though and even the Founders (no I’m not even going to attempt to explain) must respect the Accord. In the old days the Folk used to live amongst us in harmony (kind of) but now they must hide in the shadows. Apart from throwing people off buildings that is.
If you think this all sounds a bit bonkers and far-fetched, I can assure you that this is nowhere near as bonkers as it gets. A bit too bonkers for me if I am honest but I still enjoyed it massively and often laughed out loud. The retorts and one-liners are classic.
Many thanks to The Pigeonhole, the author and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.
About the Author
Irishman Caimh McDonnell is a former professional stand-up comedian and TV writer who now concentrates all of his energies on his books. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, he has taken the hop across the water and calls Manchester his home. His TV writing work has seen him work on some of the biggest topical comedy shows on British TV and has earned him a BAFTA nomination. These days he can be found happily writing his next book in the office in the back garden, with only his dog and his imagination for company. His book I Have Sinned has been nominated for the Kindle Storyteller Award 2019. Previously, his debut novel A Man With One of Those Faces was nominated for best novel at the 2017 CAP awards.