Thursday, 26 February 2015

Offshore by Lucy Pepperdine

Review by Bill Kirton

One classic setting for the crime/horror genre used to be (maybe still is) the isolated country house/hotel/community cut off from the outside world by fog/rising tide/military activities and lots of variations on those themes. Offshore brings this up to date with its setting on a disused platform in the North Sea to which a skeleton crew is sent by helicopter to check it over so that the owners can sell it on. The author has obviously researched the nature of such structures very carefully and her account of the trip there, conditions on the rig and the James Bond-like complexity of its architecture and engineering is impeccable. This doesn’t mean that she gets bogged down in details because her focus is on the personalities of the various crew members. Just being out there, with minimal facilities, lots of work to do and fewer personnel than they really needed to do it is a source of stress, but the presence of just one woman as well as personality clashes add further conflicts and resentments to the tension, interpersonal and sexual.

But all of this is nothing compared with the inhuman presence that lurks, unseen and unsuspected, deep in a sealed off part of the platform. Once it’s unleashed, though, crew members begin to vanish, one by one, in horrific circumstances. The creature may belong to paranormal realms but its treatment of its victims is literally visceral. Readers are warned right at the beginning of the book that it contains ‘very strong language throughout, scenes of horror, peril and adult content’ and, if you’re of a nervous disposition, you’d do well to heed the warning. The book is well-written, the action sustained and relentless and it all adds up to a very satisfying read.