Hungry Hearts, Gary McMahon

Review by Paul W. Smith

Imagine a time in the near future when Britain is overrun with zombies, eating, chomping, chewing, crunching their way through the population. In Leeds, the housing estates and streets are filled with the blood-thirsty undead, which the police are valiantly trying to keep under control, and to make matters worse a serial killer is on the loose. From that premise, Gary McMahon takes us on an apocalyptic adventure that like Frankenstein’s monster is a hybrid of pulp fiction concepts;. part crime thriller, part romance novel and part horror all stirred up with a touch of satire. It makes for perversely pleasurable reading.

Our hero, Rick Nutman, is a rookie cop, battling with the blood-crazed hordes, and he just hopes he can get back to his new wife, Sally, and protect her. In contrast, Daryl is a loner with a all-pervading obsession with serial killers. Whilst he nurses his dying mother, he also hatches his plans to find the first victim of his own serial killing spree. Unfortunately for Ricky, he arrives too late to save Sally from Daryl’s brutal hands, but in her reanimated state, he can at least try to spend the final few hours with her away from streets littered with body parts and half-eaten corpses. Love could keep them together even if it doesn’t hold her together. Daryl heads on in pursuit, relishing the prospect of being able to kill the same victim twice.

This is a book that’s heavy with gory description and plenty of meat on its bones of a plot. He seems to relish getting his teeth into the OTT descriptions of bloody slaughter. And yet amongst all the grisly mayhem, he creates a small cast of characters that lead us through this future landscape. It’s less crime-pulp and more flesh-pulped fiction, dripping with entrails and action. With a title like Hungry Hearts and a wonderfully lurid cover, it shows this is tongue in rotting cheek stuff, with McMahon’s imagination being macabrously measured and gleefully distasteful. This is more Dashiel Hammett writing Mills and Boon for the Graveyard set.

Publisher: Abaddon Books (paperback, £6.99). Tomes of the Dead series.