Review: Something More Than Night by Kim Newman

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Synopsis:

Dulwich College, England 1904. A young Raymond Chandler meets an enthusiastic cricketer named Billy Pratt (later Boris Karloff). Sharing a sense of being outsiders at school, the two young men become friends and Chandler encourages Pratt to help him uncover the mystery of the housemaster’s strange wife and various disappearing objects. What the boys uncover will haunt them their whole lives…

Hollywood, USA, 1944. When a young actress names Eliza Dane, also Chandler’s mistress, turns up dead, in an apparent suicide having jumped from the Hollywood sign, Chandler realises he cannot escape his past. He seeks out his old friend and together they confront the terrible creature who entered their lives all those years ago.

Told with Newman’s trademark wit and intricate knowledge of the period, Something More Than Night is a gripping and horrific tale and an engrossing dive into the thrilling era of wartime Hollywood. 

Review:

This is the first time I have read anything by Kim Newman, but when the synopsis starts with Boris Karloff and Raymond Chandler teaming up to solve a crime, I could not have wanted to read a book more. The story starts with them being called to a dock where a car is being pulled out of the water. Chandler recognizes this as a part of his novel, The Big Sleep. It is also the car belonging to a long time friend. They are contemplating what happened when there is a knock on the truck of the car, from the inside. They open it to find a woman with many names. Lauren Ives, Steps, Stephen Swift, or Witcheye. This is one of those people who Raymond had ran into quite a bit in the past few years, and it’s a mystery how they both arrived to this point, and how she was able to stay alive in the trunk of a submerged car. Thus starts the unraveling of not only the mysteries of Hollywood but the horrors happening on movie sets and in the hills. This is what I found as the biggest surprise in this book. I expected Raymond Chandler, but I also got Boris Karloff. For as much as this is set up as a mystery, the horror elements are just as strong. Kim Newman finds a way to balance them more than what I expected, and the plot turns in some directions I never would have expected.

The language Newman uses is fun and filled with puns, wits, and sentences that take a second to figure out because they are so layered, deep into the lives of Chandler, Karloff, 30s era Hollywood, or the plot. The best comparison to the writing would be John Barth because every sentence is structured in ways that make you think about how clever it is and how it fits into the whole story. James Ellroy does this to an extent as well, but he is not as funny. There are times when I laughed at how smart the sentences and paragraphs are constructed, not only because they are funny but because it shows off some serious talent.

There are no reason why I should not love this book, but I struggled to get through it. There were some parts that seemed to last too long, dig too into the trenches of the story with the writing, and there are times when I felt like I was suffocating, that the story needed ease up and breathe a little, let us get a break. This just does not happen. Toward the end, there is a long chapter that is a story written by another character (which the rest of the book is first person, narrated by Chandler,) and this is the closest this book comes to relaxing. For as much as I wanted to love this book, I found myself just slogging through the pages and waiting for the end. It is a shame because the premise and the writing are both interesting and entertaining. I will most likely check out other Kim Newman books because I did like the ideas of Something More than Night much more than the execution. 

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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