Stixx by Remy Porter
There’s a murderer loose in Greystones, a small estuary village tucked against the wintry, wooded trails of O’Halloran Hill. The gory body count begins to rise, sending the media into an all-out feeding frenzy. The village is swamped with police and onlookers, and everybody wants to catch ‘The Vampire Killer’.
While the hunt is on James Stixx and his partner-in-crime, Faye Burns discover that beneath the surface is a whole different story, a mystery that goes back decades. The teenagers find everyone has something to lose, or secrets to bury.
And all the while the vampire is waiting … choosing its moment to strike …
James Stixx is your typical teenager. He likes nothing better than copious amounts of booze down at his local pub or some mild recreational drugs, anything to take the edge off. His life is little dull and he is frequently bored. He longs for some sort of escape, something to escape from his boring repetitive job at the supermarket. How does the saying go? Be careful what you wish for? Suddenly, people in the village start dying and he is thrust into the midst of a police investigation.
Stixx comes across well. He is exactly the sort of mish mash of contradictions you would expect in a teen. Porter does a good job of capturing the teenage awkwardness that exists within his protagonist. Stixx is all cocky-front on the outside, but internally he is increasingly desperate to impress the new girl in the village, Faye Burns.
Along for the ride is Stixx’s best friend, Red. There is an easy camaraderie between the two, and it’s quickly established that they have known one another for years. Red perfectly encapsulates his role as Stixx’s sidekick. He manages to be even more bolshie than Stixx which is a feat in itself.
There is nothing I like better than a literary small village. All those deliciously evil suppressed secrets and neighbours with twitching curtains; Greystones is exactly that. You get a sense of a close knit community that is just a little bit isolated and more than a little bit odd. The story is set in and around Christmas, and the writing captures the long pitch-black nights and short grey days. There is something wonderfully sinister about this time of year. Evil is abroad and you just know that nobody is safe. It is the perfect setting to introduce a maniac who has no other desires but to kill.
Porter’s novel manages the quite difficult task of straddling multiple genres rather effectively. Somewhere between crime and horror, Stixx firmly finds his home. Entertaining and enjoyable, I rattled through the entire book in a couple of sittings.
My only small problem is that I did feel that the finale felt a little bit rushed. Events take Stixx underground and Porter does a good job of setting a suitably creepy scene. That sense of claustrophobia and the fear of the unknown helped elevate the horror quotient considerably. I would have loved a bit more of this. I should stress however, that I’m not complaining about what there was, I just wish that it had been expanded upon.
That minor, and it really is minor, gripe aside, I liked Stixx a lot. The main protagonist is a likeable rouge, the horror is suitably gruesome, and there is a nice little mystery that was fun to discover. I have no problem recommending this to anyone who enjoys a good horrific tale.
On more than one occasion I was reminded of some of my favourite 1980’s horror movies. A group of slacker teens facing off against an unknown monster sounds eerily familiar. They spend their time mostly unprepared but entirely determined to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the village where they live. Porter seems well aware that his writing is paying homage to a much loved genre. There is a nice nod to one particular classic that is guaranteed to bring a smile to the lips of any horror fan of a certain age.
I have no problem when a story treads familiar ground as long as it does it well. Stixx is a perfect example of this. Porter proves his writing chops and makes me keen to seek out more of his work.
Stixx is published by Wild Wolf Publishing and is available now.