The Wise Friend review: Stay safe at home

Books, Reviews

Ever thought you saw a shadow move out of the corner of your eye when you were alone? Even if you’re not prone to getting spooked, reading The Wise Friend after dark is very, very likely to creep you out…

Narrated by literature professor Patrick, Ramsey Campbell’s latest is a horror story that juxtaposes an exploration of artistic inspiration with the supernatural: Patrick’s aunt was a painter who fell to her death from a derelict tower block, after leaving her husband for a mysterious man whose face no-one can quite remember. When Patrick’s teenage son starts digging into her death – with the help of a mysterious new friend – Patrick worries that history might repeat itself, and begins his own investigation.

A lot of the tropes in this novel will be very familiar to horror fans, such as the way everyone in Patrick’s life starts to doubt his sanity as he delves deeper into the occult. While Campbell’s prose style veers towards the self-conscious; he has a particularly frustrating habit of adding explanatory sentences to lines of dialogue, doubling the word count of virtually every conversation.

Yet, in spite of that, there’s just something goosebump-making about the entity at the heart of this story – the ‘wise friend’ of the title. The final chapters pay off the slowly ratcheted-up tension with some cinematic horror imagery, creating an elaborately conjured nightmare that’ll make you nervous the next time you find yourself alone in the dark…

The Wise Friend by Ramsey Campbell is available now from Flame Tree Press.

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