Hauntings, bloody canvases and a silly American girl - classic horror...
Apartment 16 is an ambitious debut novel from Adam Nevill, not least because it aims to deliver a classic horror story in the image of Stephen King and Edgar Allen Poe. Devotees of such infamous horror writers will no doubt cast a scrutinizing eye over Nevill’s work, whilst novices will simply lap it up thirstily – there has been a significant drought of decent horror stories of late.
Based on the surmise that scary and paranormal are a winning combination: Apartment 16 dredges up the traditional haunting tactic. In this case, it is (unsurprisingly), apartment number 16 in a certain Barrington House situated in the unlikely locale of Knightsbridge, London that is the centre of this bizarre and psychologically intense plot. Present day, and the great-niece of the recently deceased owner of number 39 finds herself standing in front of Barrington House in awe. Apryl is unaccustomed to such an extravagant and decadent display of wealth; immediately succumbing to the overt opulence of the building and the equally obvious worth of her inheritance. What Apryl fails to see is that the beguiling outer layer of Barrington House hides a sinister and terrifying underbelly. Something is alive in apartment 16; something not quite living – something out for revenge.
Nevill draws upon the mysterious nature of artists and the stereotypical characterisation of the ‘artistic temperament’: that of a single-minded, narcissistic, emotionally unstable individual – and creates a Hessen – a painter who is transformed into a supernatural incarnation and wreaks havoc on those inhabitants of Barrington House he feels wronged him in life. Silent for fifty years, he is released through the unsuspecting night porter, Seth.
Full of intense imagery, a clear appreciation and understanding of the arts and an uncanny ability to bring real discomfort to the reader – Apartment 16 successfully delivers on the psychological scare front. But for some reason, that isn’t quite enough. There is too much emphasis on the potty Aunt Lillian and Apryl’s obsession with past fashion trends and the liaison between Apryl and Miles (the one-time author of a book apparently following Hessen’s minor rise to infamy) is rather two-dimensional and unsatisfying – probably owing to Miles’ extreme lack of personality or presence. An over-use of the word “smudges” takes over-kill completely over to the next level over; but all derivatives aside: there is no doubting Nevill’s got talent. His debut is intelligently crafted, scarily absorbing and morbidly fascinating.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012