Reviewed by Phil Sloman
‘The hangman is coming…’, so states the cover to Craig Saunders’ The Noose and Gibbet, a dark, supernatural tale set in the village of Frampton deep in the English countryside.
Grant Bridges, his wife Marianne and their young son Williamare heading for a winter break at the Noose and Gibbet, a 16th century hotel. Little do they know the evil they will encounter when they get there. Aside from young author, Sam Green, another visitor to the Noose and Gibbet, the only other occupants of Frampton are the local villagers.Yet Frampton, a twisted representation of country life in the backwaters of Hell, is where the Hangman resides, caught in another plane of existence, waiting to be unleashed onto the world.
Early on we are introduced to Warren Johns, a large man with a steel eye. He possesses supernatural powers, powers shared by young William. Between William and Johns there is a familiarity of the Danny / Dick Halloran relationship from Stephen King’s The Shining and they are to be our knights in slightly tarnished armour. Will either of them be able to defeat the coming evil?
Saunders does not hold back on the terror in this story, unflinching in his description of the horrific and unafraid to kill off characters at a whim. Coming in at a little under 200 pages, we are thrown into the horrors of Frampton from the off. Whilst great for pace, it makes it hard to care to the right degree for the characters, in particular the unfortunate souls plunged into this nightmare scenario who we need to root for.However, the street cleaner, my favourite character in the story, is a perfect bundle of repressed aggression and hatred loosed upon the village, controlling the villagers as he, in turn, is controlled by his own puppet master.
Saunders uses the village of Frampton to good effect, having fun with a small place setting and flipping us between the ‘normal’ and the supernatural with ease as the villagers press our heroes from one terror to the next. When the end comes, it works well and the resolution feels right.
Overall, a full on horror story not for the faint of heart, good but more engagement with the characters could have taken it to the next level. If you want something to pass away a few dark winter evenings then you could do a lot worse than this, especially as you can get it on Kindle for less than the cost of a coffee.