Haven by Tom Deady. Book review

Haven by Tom Deady, Greymore Publishing, £13.00

Reviewed by Dave Jeffery

At the time of writing, Haven is enjoying halcyon days. Recipient of the Award for Superior Achievement in a First Novel at this year’s Bram Stoker ‘s, and a re-launch under the banner of Greymore Publishing. This reviewer was fortunate to read this meaty tome before all of the razzmatazz of awards, and can write from the perspective of a reader who was swept away by the story, rather than the associated pomp that comes with high profile accolades.

The plot focuses on the small town of Haven where protagonist Paul Graymore returns  17 years after being sentenced for a series of heinous killings he did not commit. Against the backdrop of suspicion and paranoia, Graymore must settle back into a town that has fundamentally rejected him, and constantly harassed by the local Sherriff who is convinced he got the right man first time around. 

Then, at the lake near to Graymore’s home, the killings begin again. Graymore becomes the immediate suspect and has to spend the course of the novel trying to prove his innocence by finding out what is killing Haven’s unfortunate populous.

The essence of the story will be familiar to most fans of small town character studies given prominence by Stephen King, and comparisons with the great man are bound to follow Deady’s opus around like a stray dog on the scent of its next supper.

Reading Haven took this reviewer back to his youth where, in the school playgrounds of the 70s, debates would often occur when the two most prolific names in horror of the time, James Herbert and Stephen King, inevitably gave way to the usual adolescent arguments over who was better. As always, the answer to a question such as this is subjective, King with his articulate and powerhouse prose, and Herbert with his inherent gift for pushing the boundaries on what was and was not graphic violence.

Had Haven been around in the 70s, this reviewer argues that all bets would have been off, given that Deady has fundamentally reinvented the creature feature novels and brought them to a new, eager audience. As well as an inventive sub-text, the smooth narrative draws the reader in, the characters – with their flaws and aspirations – have significant depth, and the atmosphere from the town of Haven oozes from each page. This is King. However, Deady also takes Herbert’s  hatch ‘em and dispatch ‘em  chapter formula, and gives eager readers access to scenes of terrible carnage and bloodletting. The results are therefore immensely satisfying.

In conclusion, Haven is homage in the hands of someone in love with the genre; the emotional resonance of King and Koontz, the visceral impact of Laymon and Herbert, it’s all here, and expertly delivered. It will no doubt have many of its readers questioning where the hell Deady goes after this.

Highly recommended.