by Susan McCauley
The Demon Tailor transports us to the outskirts of Paris in the late 16th century. Seventeen-year-old Marie lives with her parents and younger sister, Collette. When her brother disappears and then his girlfriend, rumours swirl they have been taken by a creature who many believe is a werewolf. Marie refuses to be scared but when she becomes the next victim, a world of unimaginable horror opens up before her...
The Demon Tailor is a very well-written, carefully constructed and horrifically good novella. It is written in first person, lending a sense of immediacy and plunging the reader straight into the story. As the narrative develops, Marie’s point of view adds a horrendous layer of realism to the bloody brutality that she undergoes. The beginning is quite jaunty, there are lots of lovely period details; you are fully immersed in 16th century life and I liked the touches of archaic language such as the use of ‘mayhap’ which enhance the setting and lend authenticity. The prose is lively and intelligent, giving us an insight into Marie and her life; she longs to move to the centre of the Paris and away from working at the family inn, Le Poulet Fou. However, once Marie is taken, the narrative becomes nightmarish in the extreme. Her suffering, and those of others, is brutal, relentless and sustained. This is horror at its most visceral and terrifying; and I loved it. I think the novella length works really well; there are limits to how much atrocity you can read. Ms McCauley draws the story to a close at exactly the right time and the twist at the end is subtly yet swiftly introduced.
Overall, the novella is very neatly structured and thoughtfully plotted. This is not a throwaway schlock-horror read but a considered piece of excellent writing that also happens to be terrifying and immensely atmospheric.
Highly recommended; but not for the squeamish.