An abandoned house by the edge of the river. Uninhabited for decades.
A secret as old as time itself. A truth hidden from the topsiders. But that’s about to change.
When all the adults suddenly disappear, Mathew convinces his older brother that something is very wrong. Their search leads them to a place they never knew existed.
A place that will have them question everything they knew about life.
Soon, the truth.
LENGTH: 182 pages
When you review books for a blog every so often you put your hand up for something suspecting it won’t really be all that good, but the author has taken the time to submit it for review, so it’s rude not to give it a try, and besides if you want to keep your name on the reviewing roster you better take one for the team every once in a while… Such was my sentiments as I picked up Scott Tyson’s debut novel Topsiders. It didn’t hurt he was a fellow Aussie, but the blurb gives away very little, and the cover art didn’t really grab me, so I kind of shrugged my way into it, thinking at least it wasn’t very long.
A day or so later, I’d completed my one hundred and eighty degree turn and was wishing there was a whole lot more of Topsiders to go round.
I was quickly drawn into Tyson’s world of a family staying with their well-to-do friends for a holiday, and soon stumbling into something that they never could have imagined. Tyson takes his time establishing his characters in the first half of the short novel – which makes it much easier to empathise with them when they’re put in harm’s way – paying particular attention to 14 year old Matthew and his less than courageous father, Bill. Matthew has a real thing for the slightly older daughter of the other family, Claire, but has to vie for her attention with his older brother, Guy. Meanwhile (in what amounts to a welcome twist on a familiar genre trope) the parents of the kids are getting themselves neck deep in a mess that Bill has qualms about from moment one, but against his better judgment, goes along with …
And that’s about all the plot rehashing anyone should need. Part of the beauty of Topsiders is the way in which Tyson builds the tension in sure-footed, deliberate steps, but without showing his hand too early. Wondering what the menace is within the house adds a creep factor that considerably aids the read, until said menace is let off its chain and proceeds to carve through the characters in a fashion that should please most who enjoy a bit of bloodshed. Technically, the writing is crisp, assured and the dialogue has a realistic edge to it that assists in bringing the characters to life.
In terms of areas for improvement, one set of characters has a marriage that is so caustic it’s a wonder paint wasn’t stripped from every wall they happened past, with one half of said couple especially vindictive and nasty. This read as a bit over the top and could have been scaled back to seem less melodramatic.
Regardless of this, Topsiders is highly recommended to those who enjoy short, easy to read and gripping horror novels, and should especially appeal to fans pining after early Richard Laymon (even if the word “rump” barely gets a mention here).
4 Abdominal Wounds for Topsiders.
The preceding was based on a copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.