Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Radleys - Matt Haig

How well do you know your neighbours?  Well, as it would turn out, none of the Radley's neighbours knew the people along the street as well as they thought they did.  Tell tale clues, such as family dogs howling in distress whenever one of the Radley children tried to pet them, closed curtains on a sunny day, unnaturally pale skin and a diet high in rare meat., were missed.  True the Radley boy, Rowan was stigmatised as a freak  at school, but then that was likely to happen to anybody who was a little bit different.

But however much Peter and Helen Radley tried to follow the rules laid out in the Abstainer's Handbook, tension was always simmering just below the surface of family life and the pressures of not letting the kids know who or what they really are were steadily building towards boiling point.  This fragile balance was bound to be broken at some point and when daughter Clara was overwhelmed by adolescent hormonal rage when she was attacked by a boy from her school at a teenage party all hell was let loose. Literally.

Helen and Peter's pretence that they are a normal family was finally blown wide open and Peter had to act decisively to save his daughter.  But now the explanations had to begin and the truth faced, they were vampires not humans, and their children had to be told.for their own protection.  But there were more secrets  lurking in the background than the fact that they were a family of vampires, and when desperation leads to Peter's non-abstaining, hard living brother Will Radley being asked to help them, there is even more at stake than being revealed as blood sucking monsters.

Little do they know that Will has stirred up so much trouble and talk that he has lost the protection of the vampire community and is now a legitimate target for the secret police unit that hunts down and eliminates renegade vampires.  Little do they know that Eve, the girl at school that Rowan Radley has fallen head over heels for, lost her mother to a vampire attack and that the killer was none other than Will Radley.

So while Peter and Helen try to do everything they can to protect their precious daughter from the consequences of her blood-fuelled outburst, they are unaware that there are other dangers closing in on them.  Will Eve's frightened, grief-stricken father succeed in his plans to destroy Will Radley and the vampire family?  Will the police take reprisals against the family in the quest to take out Will Radley?

The explosive that threatens the very foundation of Peter and Helen's marriage will have to be faced before they can move forward and build a new future.  But who will survive?  How will the kid's take the news that they really are freaks? And will there be any happy ever afters?

After all the Hollywoodesque American vampire novels it was very interesting to read a British vampire horror and one that is set in suburbia.  This is no florid Gothic horror, but a tale of a family trying to fit in and be ordinary in an average British town.  But to thrive we all need to acknowledge our own natures and honour them, or eventually we will rebel. And as the Radleys find out, this can lead to tragedy and upheaval.

So The Radleys by Matt Haig is one to read while drinking a glass of deep, ruby red wine.  Put some extra garlic in your spaghetti bolognese if you are frightened and nail a crucifix of two to the wall.