Review by Stuart Douglas
There’s always been a vague sense in fantasy writing that darker is better, that grim beats glam every time and that ‘serious’ writers embrace the bleak and the brutal. Speaking personally, I’ve always thought of that as the most arrant nonsense, and it’s pleasing to have it confirmed that Paul Magrs obviously agrees.
For those new to the ‘Adventures of Brenda and Effie’, ‘The Woman in a Black Beehive’ concerns the Bride of Frankenstein herself, the titular Brenda, as she finds herself newly ensconced as landlady of a bed and breakfast in Whitby. After a long and mysterious past life, she’s come to the seaside to settle into a comfortable semi-retirement, but before long she – and neighbour and descendant of a long line of witches, Effie – are support stocking deep in the supernatural.
Dripping with the humour and playfulness which marked the novel series from which these new audio adventures have sprung, Magrs has created something here reminiscent of the acclaimed Dr Who audio series he wrote for Tom Baker, but which still retains a very clear sense of its own individual strengths. Anne Reid is predictably brilliant as Brenda (and as virtually everyone else!), with sound backing from Alex Lowe as poor Harold the crispy cat and Chris Pavlo as the Erl King, and the writing is, as ever, an absolute joy.
The first in a series, which can be ordered either individually or as a whole from Bafflegab, this is a resounding success as an opening instalment and leaves one keen to hear more.