The Fox by Conrad Williams. Book review

THE FOX by Conrad Williams, This Is Horror, p/b, £4.99, limited edition (300 copies)

Reviewed by Phil Sloman

“Do you keep secrets from your wife? I do…Christ, I do…”

The Fox is a chilling tale from the pen of Conrad Williams. This tightly constructed chapbook drags us off into the world of glamping (luxury camping on a farm) near the New Forest. A young family getting away from the irritations of modern living in the heart of nature.

Williams builds his story well, his descriptions of the camping experience pulling the reader into the normalities of families on holiday. It all feels familiar, if just a bit unsettling. Nothing more than the crack of a twig in the woods whilst you sit around the evening campfire telling tales. Nothing more than shadows flitting around, that is until another twig cracks.

There is something about the horror in The Fox. It creeps up on you slowly, stalking you through its pages until the true face of terror is revealed. At first glance our protagonist has nothing more to worry about than keeping the chill of the British weather from his wife Kit and their two young girls Megan and Lucy. But the tale unfolds, nature comes alive and secrets of past lives are revealed leading to the starkest of endings.

Williams deftly weaves two tales together, the first set in the modern day focusing on the life around the farm, the disappearance of the chickens, most likely taken by a fox, upsetting the family and bringing nature closer than was wanted. The second tale is one of secrets, foolish teenage acts long forgotten and buried in the past. Each one disturbing in its own way, each one coming together to question just who is the real villain of the piece.

The Fox is a short story, barely twenty-nine pages in length, and it is easily read within one sitting. Yet there is something about the writing which gets under your skin and its pages will haunt you long after you have finished reading the final paragraph.