The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert

September 21, 2012

The police in Bristol have been confronted by a series of the most perplexingly elaborate deaths they’ve ever encountered in all their years of murder enquiries. The only thing which connects them is their seemingly random nature and their sheer outrageousness. As Detective Inspector Longdon and his assistant Sergeant Jenny Newham (with the help of pathologist Dr. Richard Patterson) race against time to find the murderer, they eventually realise that the link which connects the killings is even more bizarre than any of them dared to think…

Imagine a British police procedural with a dark, sinister undertone, and a villain who delights in staging devilishly macabre crimes. Like the bastard son of Hammer House of Horror and A Touch of Frost, with just a dash of Tales of the Unexpected thrown in for good measure, The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine is the latest from small publisher Spectral Press. Outlandish as it is engrossing, I’ve read it a couple of times now and I reckon it’s a perfect little gem of a story.

Who should read this then? Well, personally I think everybody, but if you are a fan of the likes of Hammer and Amicus (especially the films of Vincent Price) then you’ll be particularly over the moon.  I don’t doubt for a moment that any horror film buff is going to be in their element with this. Dr Valentine is an evil genius and each of his crimes reflects this. I can’t say much more than that, for fear of spoilers, but take it from me the discovery is well worth it.

As an aside, I know Bristol a little, I have family in that neck of the woods, and I couldn’t help but smile when I spotted locations I was familiar with. A personal favourite was the inventive use of Clifton Suspension Bridge. I’m never going to be able to look at it in quite the same way again.

As an added bonus there is a cheeky little appendix tucked away in the back that details each of the films that Dr Valentine draws his diabolical inspirations from. I defy anyone to read this and, if they haven’t already seen them, immediately want to seek these cinematic classics out. Entertainment and education in equal measure? Mr Llewellyn Probert, truly you’re spoiling us.

Sometimes when you read a story, and the author absolutely nails it, you can easily picture every character in every scene. The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine falls firmly into this category. All I need to do now is figure out some way to convince the team behind The League of Gentlemen that this is exactly the sort of thing they need to make into a one off TV drama. Their dark, sometimes creepy, visual style merged with this story, oh wow, it could be phenomenal. Perhaps in time for Halloween next year? I can picture the cast already.

Bravo to the author, and to Spectral Press. This latest release is an absolute corker. In fact, I think I’ll go so far as to say that this may be my favourite Spectral release so far. Gruesome, gory and just a little bit camp. I don’t think you could want for anything more when it comes to a great story. It’s exactly the sort of thing that I can see myself revisiting again in the future.

The Nine Deaths of Dr Valentine has already sold out in hardback (so very pleased I managed to snag myself a copy now, why yes I am slightly smug about that now that you mention it). Check the Spectral Press website for details of availability in other formats.

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