A few years ago, Gary McMahon mesmerized a couple of thousand readers with an apocalyptic vision of an urban nightmare. The Concrete Grove (with its stand out artwork by Vincent Chong) came at a restless time when the real world seemed to hold up a sobering mirror to our own dark insecurities – not only in Gary’s native England but for the collective world as a whole. With poverty, crime, and the decaying municipal jungle of The Grove as his playground, Gary tapped into some of the things that truly scare us in this modern age. Although the supernatural trappings were original (sinister hummingbirds are certainly no trope), they seemed more of side dish to the main course: a human prison in the guise of derelict suburb. Its sequel, Silent Voices, continued the tale but in a more enclosed and domesticated framework. With Beyond Here Lies Nothing, the author serves symmetry by taking his last book of the trilogy to the same lofty heights we experienced in The Concrete Grove.
This outing concerns another new character, Marc Price. (An individual who feels like he’s been in the trilogy for its entirety). He comes back to The Grove to research a book about the ‘Northumberland Poltergeist’ – an infamous case from the 1970s: twins haunted by the spirit they nicknamed Captain Clickety. Soon a relationship is underway with a local woman – the mother of one of the ‘Gone Away Girls’: children that were abducted years previous with no evidence of what happened to them. That bygone case has also left an indelible mark on local cop Royle, a hardened man with an addiction to alcohol who seems to embody the Grove itself.
Not far from The Needle, scarecrows appear with their heads plastered in photographs of the missing and the dead.
In this, the culmination of a large story arc, Gary McMahon accomplishes what he sets out to do: horrify. There were times during this reading I felt genuinely unnerved (rare for someone schooled in the genre). Poetic and mystical, Gary is tapping into his own brand: a dark school of thought that I suspect we’ve only just seen the surface of.