Last week this book was doing well on the Amazon bestseller lists particularly in the "Horror" category and was being discussed in an on-line forum that I visit from time to time. I read the free sample on the Amazon site and thought I would give it a go even though I don't often read horror. In fact I can only think of Stephen King, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker as authors of horror novels I've ever read unless you count Daphne Du Maurier The Birds and Don't Look Now which I think are really scary.
On balance The Cupboard Under the Stairs is just as much a psychological crime thriller as a horror story. That's not to say that there isn't some horrible, gory crime in this novel and some seriously spooky carved wooden figures; and you're left with a couple of loose ends that might have a psychological explanation but then again ….. who knows? Harry Tompkin the central character is a loner and social mis-fit but also a brilliant woodcarver. Unfortunately when his latest creation is finished, things begin to go seriously wrong. DI Jack Hogg and DS Peter Edwards are called in to sort out the mess and they are in a race against time to get the situation under control.
Author Roger Knowles has put together a well constructed murder thriller. His police detective characters are plausible and you are sympathetic to the challenges of their task; his evil protagonist is mad, bad and dangerous but incredibly sad and that is my remaining thought - how very sad. I don't want to spoil the ending but it could be that it's not sad at all - just seriously scary.
I was interested by the book cover that Roger Knowles has used for this novel. He has gone 100% against the prevailing wisdom that an artwork book cover is an essential selling point: this is just chalk board with school teacher handwriting of title and author's name. That's all there is. I belong to the generation that spent its formative years looking at the spines of books in libraries and book shops - long before the use of display tables - just the odd display board with metal holders for a handful of front facing books. Therefore I'm not particularly bothered about cover art and am far more influenced when choosing books by an intriguing or catchy title, the familiarity of the author and the blurb. So it was interesting to see that a book without cover artwork could do so well.
The author is donating part of the proceeds of the sales of this book to the UK Chronic Fatigue Syndrome charity which has a web site at http://www.chronicfatiguesyndrome.me.uk/ I enjoyed reading The Cupboard Under the Stairs which is still doing well on the Amazon bestseller ranking and at the moment is 10th in the Fiction / Thriller / Horror category.