Banquet For The Damned by Adam Nevill book review

Adam Nevill’s ghoulish Banquet For The Damned is a treat for lovers of MR James

If you’re a fan of the M.R James tradition of macabre ghost stories, then you’re going to love this ghoulish tale. Flailing musicians Dante and Tom head to St. Andrews for the chance to work with reclusive academic Elliot Coldwell, writer of Dante’s favourite book – the eponymous Banquet.

With their band in tatters, Dante jumps at the chance to become Coldwell’s research assistant, and make his long-dreamt concept album based on the book. Tom tags along for the ride, but all is not what it seems in the picturesque Scottish university town.

Students are experiencing night terrors and coming to bloody ends. A scholar of paganism, witchcraft and the occult for his entire life, the finger of suspicion points to Coldwell, as it emerges that it is members of his group of paranormal enthusiasts that are afflicted. Something evil is stalking them to their gory deaths, and when Coldwell pushes Dante into the path of his enigmatic assistant Beth he begins to have bad dreams too.

His language accumulates dread page by page, until you begin to feel as these poor terrorised students do – frozen in fear. The sequences involving this supernatural creature lurking in the shadows are cinematically vivid, heightening your senses and spurring you to read on.

That said, Elliot is a bit of an Aleister Crowley cliché – an old academic who has seen better days and spends a lot of time moaning about people who can’t appreciate the unseen world. The unknowable Beth remains a puzzle and doesn’t quite capture the imagination.

Perhaps where Banquet falls down is in the dialogue. There’s something so stiff about how these people talk to each other that it becomes jarring. However, Nevill nails the location, describing St. Andrews with a mixture of grandeur and foreboding ­– as a graduate of the University, he should know.

If you’re in the mood for some modern supernatural horror, you’ll find Banquet For The Damned a treat. It’s a tense thriller that might not keep you guessing, but will certainly keep you turning the page.