SOUL MASQUE by Terry Grimwood, Spectral Press, chapbook, £4.50, www.spectralpress.wordpress.com
Reviewed by Phil Sloman
Soul Masque is a grimy chapbook tackling good and evil, the pair often blurred, between its twenty-something pages as we are thrust into the underbelly of society in a fight to hold demons at bay.
The story starts at the end, an epilogue thrusting us into the culmination of Soul Masque’s tale. The opening (or ending) throws the reader and this, coupled with a bleak style of writing, makes it hard to get into the book initially. As such, Soul Masque is good yet flawed, mirroring the nature of some of its characters. Once into the rhythm, we find ourselves witnessing a battle between demons and angels, played with human beings for chess pieces, the plot itself a giant jigsaw which only comes together on the very last page.
Grimwood crams an incredible amount into his limited page count. We are met with six chapters, introducing us to The Singer, a conduit to the supernatural, Sian the dominatrix, Jon a crack addicted preacher, Meg seeking salvation where the doctors couldn’t help her and Rennie tortured and trapped, killing with remorse in order to survive. With so much back story hinted at and futures to be played out, there is a sense of a novel wanting to burst out of the pages, running fully formed with deliciously broken characters in need of redemption. This gives us a greater depth to Soul Masque than you might otherwise expect with multiple layers of complexity being prodded throughout.
Overall I liked Soul Masque after a second reading, needing time to piece the world together which I had just stepped into. You get drawn into the muck beneath the veil, the tale playing out across London in the dark areas where the general populous rarely tread. There are enough hints of ‘normal’ on the wrong side of the tracks to make you believe wholeheartedly in the world Grimwood paints. This is a book to read in the park in the sunlight, then you can tell yourself that none of this is real, it’s just a story after all. A story aching to become a novella to give its characters a chance to shine amongst the darkness.