by Iseult Murphy
When twin sisters, Irene and Vicky, are gifted a cottage break in Basard, Southern Ireland by Vicky’s boss, it seems the ideal break to enable the twins to reconnect and Irene’s miniature schnauzer, Ronnie, can also come. However, it’s Halloween week and little do the twins realise that villagers of Basard are hiding a horrifying secret….
7 Days in Hell has all the ingredients of a gruesome rural horror; satanic rituals, troubled priests, zombie villagers and, on the whole, all are put to good use. The beginning is darkly atmospheric and within a few pages plunges the reader straight into gore. It’s a very easy read, the prose has a jaunty rhythm and the story is fairly straightforward. Irene and Vicky are interesting protagonists. Irene is reserved and sensible whereas Vicky appears superficial and lazy. There is clearly conflict between the two and it would have been nice to have had a little more or maybe gained some backstory. Personally, I found Irene the stronger, more intriguing sister. I could not warm to Vicky and, consequently found her unconvincing, especially towards the end of the novel. Father McBride was nicely dependable and the creepy setting really complements the disturbing plot.
I liked the structure of the weekday chapters, it helped create suspense and when we reach the main incident in the novel – it really is gory and barbaric and then continues to be so. Some of the descriptive writing really makes you wince and the narrative certainly has a Wickerman vibe to it. The scene in the garage was exceptionally unnerving and the portrayal of the mechanic, Nally, appallingly sinister. The inclusion of the American family was a good idea as it just occasionally shifted focus from the twins. They also added an element of curiosity as you were not entirely sure who they really were and how they would figure in the plot. Briefly, the action does sometimes become a bit comedic which detracts from the fear factor but notwithstanding, 7 Days in Hell is a grisly and enjoyable horror. Recommended.