First published back in June of 2013,
British author Joseph Freemanís novel ĎThe Cold Heart Of Summerí offered up
a thick slab of British cosmic horror.
The sleepy coastal town of Blackwood
harboured a centuries old secret. Within the thick forests that
bordered the town, under pale of the moon an ancient cult performed strange
and dark rituals - worshipping the unknown forces from the dark starry skies
Even to the present day, many of the Blackwoodís
residents continued with the ancient ways of this near forgotten witchcraft.
Overlooking the town, the lord of the manor - Edmund Longthrone Ė hosted
secretive midsummer parties for those who continued to practice such dark
Since heíd left Blackwood, Jerry Marshall had forgotten
the strange ways of his once hometown. However, with news of his
fatherís death, Jerry returned to the quiet coastal town to pay his respects
and sort out his late fatherís estate. Although ever since arriving
back after all those years of being away, Marshall felt more than a little
uneasy with the place. More than could simply be put down to his
Meanwhile another seemingly new face had arrived
into Blackwood. In the past seven years Alyssa Halstead had only
visited her father twice. But she had kept in touch the best should
could. However, after she was repeatedly unable to reach her father
over the phone, Alyssa decided to make the journey to Blackwood to find out
what has happened to him.
But something strange seems to be happening
in Blackwood. Jerry fails to believe that his father, even if he was
unpopular within the small community, would have taken his own life.
With the funeral over, and everything else taken care of, Jerry has one last
task he wants to accomplish before he returns to London. Somewhere in
Blackwood was the answer to the mystery of why his father had ended his
His fatherís erratic papers and scrawled notes
hadnít helped. It was increasingly evident that the old man had become
obsessed with local myths and folklore. Threaded throughout these
notes Jerry had unearthed numerous references to the moon. But how had
it led to his fatherís untimely demise? Was there a connection to be
found in it all? Was there something more to his fatherís obsession
with these age-old legends and a long dead occult?
With the midsummer
full moon approaching, strange happenings had started to take place all
around Blackwood. Both Jerry and Alyssa canít help but feel the
tension in the air. Thereís something wrong with the town.
Something rooted in the past. Something that the moon seems to be
drawing out. The tides appear to be turning. And as the silvery
light of the moon shines down on Blackwood, the two new faces in town are
beginning to realise that summer has never felt so coldÖ
The first thing that jumps out at you when you pick up a copy of Freemanís
ĎThe Cold Heart Of Summerí is the influence that master horror writer James
Herbert has clearly had on the author. The cover artwork, the clean
crisp font work used, it looks exactly like a Herbert novel, in the most
deeply respectful of ways. Even down to the stylised ĎJFí on the
inside of the cover Ė a clear homage to the late author.
But itís when you start reading the tale
that the influence truly becomes apparent. Herbert wrote in an
exquisitely British way. His writing flowed with a depth of poetically
descriptive charm; conjuring up lucid images of the locale and the
characters that visited his haunting tales. That same, wonderful
detail to the surroundings, that same want for a fuller image of the
environment and everything within it, is plain to see across every page of
The outcome isnít exactly a fast-paced thrill-seeker
of a read. Itís carefully plotted, with time spent immersing the
reader in the storyís setting whilst weaving the characters into this
lovingly established backdrop. But of course, itís through the
characters where the reader becomes fully ensnared into the storyís
spiralling plot. These wonderfully fleshed-out and intricately
detailed lives that converge into a tight and compelling story.
Thereís undeniably a chill that permeates the entire story. It creeps
out from the darkened woodwork of this shadowy setting. Its tendrils
reaching out for you as you follow the quiet footsteps of those around
Blackwood. What starts off with strange ghostly presences - glimpsed
one minute, then gone the next - gradually escalates with a firm-footed
Of course not all the residents of this sleepy town are
oddball occultists worshipping dark forces from outer space. Within
Blackwood you have relatively normal folk who have been turning a blind eye
to what their senses are screaming out at them. Youíve got a social
worker who sees a grotesquely deformed baby, one which seems to whisper to
its ex-druggie mother, whenever she visits the down beaten young woman.
Oh yes, in here you have some of the creepiest shit youíre likely to read
for a long time.
In essence, what you have with ĎThe Cold Heart Of
Summerí is a slow burning chiller that gradually, scene-by-scene, slithers
its way under your skin in order to reach for those deeply embedded nerve
endings that feel the chill the longest. The further you get in the
novel, the bleaker everything seems to become. Like a blanket of
oppression smothering everything in sight, the gloomy darkness of the story
quietly descends around you, until you feel trapped in an environment where
it seems thereís a mysterious hostility everywhere you turn.
a hell of a lot to like about this novel. It pulls you in and keeps
you snuggly in its cold embrace. The characterisation undoubtedly
makes the novel. However, itís those final gut-wrenching few chapters
where Freeman really seals the deal. The uncompromising gloom of it
all is a bastard of a gut-punch. When those peripheral edges of the
mystery that surrounded everything start to fall away, when the first
whispers of an understanding begin to rise out of the dark earth, thatís
when youíll feel the coldness smothering you. Thatís when the
nightmares will kick in. Thatís when Freemanís well and truly gotten
For those who love James Herbertís work. For those
who have reread ĎThe Ghosts Of Sleathí (1994) more times than you care to
admit. This oneís for you.
The novel runs for a total of 293