The Creeper by A M Shine

September 25, 2022

Superstitions only survive if people believe in them…

Renowned academic Dr Sparling seeks help with his project on a remote Irish village. Historical researchers Ben and Chloe are thrilled to be chosen – until they arrive.

The village is isolated and forgotten. There is no record of its history, its stories. There is no friendliness from the locals, only wary looks and whispers. The villagers lock down their homes at sundown.

It seems a nameless fear stalks the streets, but nobody will talk – nobody except one little girl. Her words strike dread into the hearts of the newcomers. Three times you see him. Each night he comes closer…

That night, Ben and Chloe see a sinister figure watching them. He is the Creeper. He is the nameless fear in the night. Stories keep him alive. And nothing will keep him away…

For a reader like me, The Creeper by A.M. Shine is the perfect nightmare fuel. I have a tendency towards night terrors and on more than one occasion I’ve woken in the middle of the night utterly convinced there is someone in the room standing over me*. With that in mind, I am either absolutely the worst or the very best audience for this novel. I’m a glutton for punishment so I’ll assume I’m the best.

For researchers Ben and Chloe, the opportunity to make some much-needed money by interviewing the inhabitants of a remote village couldn’t have come at a better time. A reclusive academic offers them the chance to discover the truth behind an old Irish legend. The villagers however, are an insular, distrustful bunch. Their entire lives are bound by the rules that surround an entity known as the Creeper. To these simple souls, an abrupt intrusion by outsiders is tantamount to blasphemy. The interviews don’t go according to plan, and after failing to get the answers they are looking for, Ben and Chloe decide to leave. On their journey home a strange figure appears in the distance.

Where the folk horror of The Creeper excels is in picking apart the nature of belief and superstition. Initially, our two protagonists are dismissive of the villagers and their archaic lifestyle. Ben is particularly sceptical. He is the sort of person who is constantly looking for the rational explanation in all things. He can’t allow himself to accept any other possibility. The idea that the Creeper could be real is too ridiculous to entertain.

A horror that slowly burrows its way directly into my brain like this always leaves a distinct impression. I remember the first time I saw Ring I was unsettled for days. The Creeper emanates that same air of disquiet. It’s that growing feeling of uncertainty, of everything being not quite right. An air of tension that builds slowly, chipping away at your sanity in tiny increments. There is a sense of desperate inevitability hangs heavy over events. The Creeper is coming and he will get you eventually.

Though The Creeper is firmly rooted in the realms of psychological horror, there are some moments of physical trauma peppered throughout the narrative that also manage to illicit shock. As an aside, top marks to the author for the use of the word ‘creamy’ in a horror novel. So very, very icky.

If you are looking for a modern take on old-school folk horror then I can heartily recommend The Creeper. With subtle nods to the likes of The Wicker Man and James Herbert’s back catalogue, I’m sure you’re going to be pleased and horrified in equal measure.

The Creeper is published by Head of Zeus and is available now.

My musical recommendation to accompany this read is the soundtrack to Slender Man by Ramin Djawadi and Brandon Campbell. It has a suitably ominous tone that captures the unsettling nature of the novel.

*My other half will confirm this is sometimes paired with me screaming at full volume**.

**I know, I’m quite the catch aren’t I?

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