Hammer’s series of Gothic novellas continues with this entertaining spin on classic horror storytelling tropes: Cat Out Of Hell.
Author Lynne Truss clearly knows her stuff and has great fun referencing everything from M.R. James to Anne Rice as William, our recently widowed narrator, is sent an email about an impossible conversation between an actor named Wiggy and a cat named Roger.
As Roger tells the story of how he learned to speak, William begins to realise the tale is somehow more sinister than he originally realised. Kidnapping, murder, and satanic cults soon occupy the mind of our grieving librarian as he becomes a part of the story.
There’s a dedication at the start of the book that reads “To Gemma, who loves proper horror, with apologies.” This obviously doesn’t mean that horror lovers won’t enjoy Cat Out Of Hell, as Truss’ affection and knowledge of the genre feels utterly genuine.
It is, however, a novel that plays with conventions and instead of having a character like Louis de Pointe du Lac at its centre, it has a Machievellian cat who sounds like Vincent Price.
Truss keeps things moving at a good pace and the first half is very funny indeed, as the documents William uncovers include Wiggy’s unfinished screenplay version of his strange conversations. Around the halfway point, the author introduces some real danger to the plot, which is as entertaining if not quite as convincing.
As things build towards a tense finale the delicate balance between pastiche and parody threatens to tip but it’s tremendous fun all the way through. Cat Out Of Hell is a little uneven and we’d recommend reading it quickly for maximum effect, but this an enjoyable comic spin on old classics for genre rookies and horror fans alike.