Every writer has to start somewhere and Leo Darke starts with something he knows - if the "About the Author" section at the end of Mr. Nasty is to believed. He writes about the tedious lives of film and TV extras, and oddly enough, they don't seem to be as funny as what Ricky Gervais would have us believe.
But they are most certainly more horrifying. At least in Darke's world.
Mr. Nasty scores major points for its concept: Someone is utilising the 39 videos banned in the UK in the early 1980s as inspiration for a set of brutal murders. These murders mostly take place on or around movie sets, which is where major protagonist Tommy Wallace comes into play. He's a struggling extra whose marriage is on the rocks, and it's from his perspective that most of the story is told. Once the murders begin the other major POV character, Detective Sargeant Slade, is introduced and soon Tommy is being looked at as a major suspect.
The first half of Mr. Nasty is largely set-up and character development. And herein are the book's two major problems. Firstly, it simply takes too long to get where it's going - though when the second half does ratchet up the pace, there is guts and gore galore to be found. Secondly, Darke does a less than serviceable job of building sympathetic characters. Slade is an arrogant asshole, while Tommy spends most of his time mooning over every woman to take a second glance at him. The number of times he vacillates between the various women in his life eventually becomes tiresome and then contemptible. Darke also makes the first novel mistake of adopting the omnipotent narrator POV from time to time, hinting at or even openly stating events to come, and thereby destroying any real tension that might have been derived.
Still, the ideas here are quality. Darke plays with whether the killers are everyday murderers or perhaps even magically lifted straight from the Video Nasties themselves. He also throws a bit of a John Carpenter-esque curveball by having the titular character filming the murders so they can be cut together into the ultimate snuff film that may do more than simply shock ...
All in all, Mr. Nasty is a serviceable debut novel that provides a glimpse into a dark and imaginative mind.
3 Poor Decisions Made Under Threat of Imminent Death for Mr. Nasty.
The above review is based on an eARC obtained from Samhain Publishing via Netgalley.