Nicola Barker
Darkmans Cover


Graham Vingoe

Darkmans is a huge book - 838 pages in the hardback. It's written, however, in comic sans font which opens up the pages so that they feel a lot less imposing than, Lord of the Rings for example. Never do you feel that you'll not be able to finish the thing I managed around 500 pages in 2-3 days without any effort).

Storywise, the book follows the lives of a number of characters in the urban backwater that is Ashford in Kent not too far from the Channel Tunnel. All the characters know and relate to each other in a number of ways but the plot focusses primarily on the father/son duo of Beede and Kane and the mystery surrounding the medieval jester john Scogins, who may or may not be haunting and possessing various cast members leading them to carry out a number of weird sometimes horrific acts with no apparent motive - The scenes revolving Beede and his dead cat are particularly disturbing.

Balancing out the darkness is a large number of comedic scenes many involving Kelly, A trashy teenage character who finds god but gets completely the wrong idea of what God wants and sends text messages to all her friends saying she forgives them- irrespective of whether they have actually done anything to wrong her.

Nowhere in the text is it specifically spelt out whether there is actually anything supernatural at work so its not completely apparent whether Barker is writing this as a pure horror/Fantasy or as a mainstream novel with fantastic elements. At the end of the day though I was left with the feeling that whichever way you take it, Darkmans is amongt the best works of fiction to be published this century. Extremely highly recommended