MMNster Book Review: Witness X

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Witness X - SE Moorhead

I heard about SE Moorhead via Twitter as I saw she was chatting with Stu Turton, the author of the rollercoaster that is & Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. I was so excited to get this book and absolutely devour it that I couldn’t wait for it to be released in Canada in March 2021 and I got my mum to buy and send me a copy from the UK.

 After reading only three chapters of the book, I had to tweet about it again once I realised it checked three of my favourite book-topic-boxes!

I was hooked when I saw the quote on the cover by Simon Baxter, ‘Silence of the Lambs meets Blade Runner’ how could I *not* be? The psychopath and the serial killer tropes are overdone but I’m still interested in whatever new offerings come up in these topics. The combination of this with Blade Runner though – that really intrigued me. I’ve been reading a lot more Sci-Fi lately, about quantum mechanics (Recursion by Blake Crouch is a must if you’re into this area), time travel and incredible scientific theory and to couple that angle with the story of a murderer takes some serious skill. I was so interested in seeing where Moorhead took this.

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I was happy to see this book set in London and *small spoiler* some of it takes place 25 years in the future. I found myself immediately relieved when reading the London of 2019 and the version 25 years later that none of it felt like it was grasping back at the Big Smoke of the Ripper years. Moorhead didn’t rely on that trope to set her scene, to fill our brains with the streets and the sounds.

The future London felt tangible and recognizable yet clearly not of ‘now’. Moorhead inserted future tech seamlessly and never made me cringe or question it’s invention – it felt like a possible future that we might find ourselves in. The descriptions of the streets weren’t laboured, they weren’t bogged down in detail to make absolutely sure we were along for the ride, they were short yet perfectly executed. 

‘Even at this time of year, the damp and warmth gave rise to mossy bricks and pavement-crack weeds, life forcing its way out of every crevice like sweat from pores’

And that’s when the horror really began. Crafted like a smart cop show, the book takes us on a tense journey through fear, family and friends and what happens when the three are forced together in the worst way. Moorheard gave me just enough of the thread to make me think I knew where it was leading, then she added knots with the skills and delicacy of a seasoned pro. 

There were points throughout when I saw the nods to crime shows, sci-fi, gritty BBC dramas that everyone talks about for months – all the things I love about great stories that push all the right buttons. And then we’re reminded as we get to the end that this is absolutely a horror story. We are enveloped by something so dark as Moorhead brings this tale to a close that although we didn’t see it coming, it feels morbidly fitting. 

Horror that really gets under your skin, a crime story that burrows into your brain – I strongly recommend this modern take on a scary story that you’ll end up dreaming about more than once.

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