Having dabbled with a few of his short stories, The Faceless is the first complete Simon Bestwick book I’ve read. And, like the whisky I'm drinking while writing this, it sure hits hard.
The book seems to me to be divided into three acts, and it’s almost impossible to guess how it will end from its measured, creepy start. It initially reads like Ramsey Campbell transplanted from Merseyside streets to small town Lancashire. In this 'act' the three principle characters are introduced, as well as the setting: the town of Kempworth, which is subject to a spate of disappearing and sightings of the mysterious ‘Spindley Men’.
The second 'act' tells of a police raid on the abandoned psychiatric hospital Ash Fell and it ups the action and the tension; and the third... well, that would be telling. Suffice to say, the scope of the tale has expanded dramatically. This three act structure allows Bestwick to show off his adept handling of differing styles of horror – from the creeping paranoia at the start, to the full-blown, panoramic terror of the final scenes.
This review only scratches the surface; there’s a lot going on here. Suffice to say this is a belter of a novel, aware of the genre’s traditions but original and unique. The local detail and dialogue of the “bastard North” is done well without over-doing it, and the book certainly doesn't shy away depicting horrors both supernatural and realistic. It’s safe to say the ending is bravely uncompromising as well: fitting, but hardly uplifting. Looks like Bestwick is one to watch...