Carol Naylor's Review It | 01 January 2013 | Carol Naylor

Shan is a successful writer of children's horror stories. His first books for adults didn't do particularly well although he acquired an adult following with The City Trilogy and then Lady as he affectionately calls it. The idea for Lady had been conceived in 1999 and was finally published 13 years later! The novel is based around the old film noir movies such as Double Indemnity and Hell's Horizon. The inclusion of a number of ghosts who haunt the protagonist because of his murky past was Shan's personal twist to this popular genre.

 

In exploring the boundaries of a dark supernatural thriller Shan admits that his purpose was "to really mess with the minds of readers." What he does in fact, is to "mess" with the mind of Ed the main character who is forced into questioning what is real and what is unreal. We discover the truth when Ed discovers it but what is fascinating is that we rarely understand the truth. A bit like goalposts that keep changing. Something like that.

 

The novel opens on a dramatic note with an assassination in Chile. Shan uses graphic description effectively, typical of his style and this genre.


"His head exploded in a cone of bone, brain and blood."


We discover that the assassin has been asked to "perform" another assignment for Mikis Menderes a "tight-fisted gangster." The thriller angle is developed from the start, Ian Fleming style. Engaging aand gory. Just how we like it.

 

Ed is an American author, interested in the paranormal and SHC-Spontaneous Human Combustion. His main belief is that ghosts might be the result of a "violent, unnatural death." He meets Joe in London who shares his interests but all is not what it seems......


They are conducting some ghostly research for Ed's next novel "immersing himself in the murky world of the dead" as Ed puts it. He admits to "hovering on the abyss of an insane pit" but he is determined to prove that ghosts are real and that his mind is not "deluded."

 

We are given insight into his deep insecurities and disturbed mind constantly questioning his own sanity throughout the novel. He thrives on danger and finds "normality" tedious.
"The quest for answers has kept me sane."

 

The shades represent the apparitions that haunt him and the lady is Deleena Emerson who he falls passionately in love with. Ed knows that the apparitions want him destroyed and the story reveals horrendous details of his past showing cruelty and ruthlessness. Hard to believe for a writer of fiction.


He becomes infatuated and obsessed with Deleena the "ghost of the girl" he thinks about constantly and this distracts him from writing his novel although she does have a calming effect on him and makes him feel "different, less complicated and reserved." It is a "chaste affair" with feelings of lust and longing without the sex! Ed becomes hopeful that she will cure him of his ills and "banish the spectre of the ghosts."


The two major themes are betrayal and deception and as the novel progresses the revelation becomes apparent that Ed's "creature of the shadows" the love of his life doesn't exist.Murders ensue followed by a further dabbling into the paranormal and mystics in his desperate attempt to make contact with the spirit of Deleena and discover the truth.


Shan plays mind-games with Ed and of course the reader until the bitter and twisted truth rears its ugly head. Ed's soul is destroyed and he plunges into hell a broken man with maudling thoughts of death. "I've been a figure in a tragic play. Now I must accept my fated end with the same dignity and resignation as Othello and Macbeth." The fatal flaw. Greek tragedy. Shakespearian tragedy. Call it what you like.


dark and chilling but thrilling

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