Shroud Magazine, 2010
Review by R. B. Payne
Night Souls: A Department 18 Novel
L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims
According to the real Department 18 website (www.dept18.com), we are to ignore the irresponsible scribblings of Maynard & Sims. Their books, such as the previous Black Cathedral, and the current volume, Night Souls, are complete breaches of Great Britain’s national security and are to be avoided, at the cost of extreme prejudice. Department 18’s mission to investigate and resolve supernatural phenomena is to remain hidden, and these stories are to be suppressed.
But, until the books are pulled from the shelves by MIB, we are offered a chiller/thriller that is a roller coaster ride worthy of an X-Files and John le Carré mash-up. With no hesitation, Maynard & Sims thrust us into the world of the Breathers, a race of psychic-sexual creatures living in the shadows of human civilization. To make things worse, they enjoy consuming humans in a most horrible fashion.
In a modern nod to conflicted antagonists (whatever happened to the arch-villains that simply wanted to eliminate humanity?), the Breathers are divided, and a war is brewing between them. As Department 18 becomes aware of their existence and the impending conflict, they race to figure out what is happening, and why.
The mark of a successful series is the ability to pick up any volume and feel a kinship with the characters, even though their backstory may be a bit hazy. Maynard & Sims handle the carryover characters in this series by introducing new characters that learn the people and departmental history as the story unfolds. Well done.
With an international setting, Night Souls is sometimes a juggernaut of a chiller/thriller novel where it’s necessary to flip back a few pages to keep track of the players. The story is complex and it feels like the book was designed to be read quickly. For the astute reader, there are a few refrigerator logic moments, but for the most part these are minimal. The resolution may come a bit too easily, however, the overall story is certainly satisfying. In fact, the concept of the Breathers may be larger than a single tome, and if the files of Department 18 are breached again, the Breathers could make a reappearance. If they do return, they will, no doubt, be pissed off.
For the official record, this is not a book for the squeamish. There’s gore, sex, sex-gore, and gore-sex. Never too much, it’s dished out tapas-size, each a delectable treat that serves the overall narrative of the story. There are a couple of grimace-moments, for sure.
In the final analysis, it’s only a matter of time until Department 18 Special Forces take out Maynard and Sims by psychically stripping their minds and reducing them to two old pensioners hoping for someone to empty their drool cups. In the interim, it can only be hoped that they continue to tell more of these true stories behind the supernatural events which are so cleverly concealed from the public by Department 18.
(c) 2015 by R. B. Payne. All Rights Reserved.