*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and to Emma Welton of damppebbles blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Frightful visions. An unknown manipulator. A force from beyond reason.
Brandon Chapman arrives home to a horrific scene. His wife, Stephanie, is exhibiting behaviour that he can only describe as that of someone possessed – yet he doesn’t even believe in the supernatural. He soon realises that it was nothing other than a frightful, haunting vision.
After discovering a dark secret about Stephanie, Brandon meets a strange figure with knowledge about his own life that no one could possibly know. As his visions become more frequent and terrifying, he begins to question his sanity.
Brandon must either side with this figure or his wife before his daughter comes to harm.
Alice Hamilton, a shy and quiet university student, meets handsome Niel Curtis whilst on a night out with friends. They very quickly fall for one another, but their happiness is short-lived when Niel ends up in a coma after a traffic accident.
Alice fears he may never wake up again and, unaware of the consequences, strikes a deal with a strange voice. When Niel awakes, his behaviour changes drastically, and Alice – like Brandon – becomes subject to nightmarish, violent visions.
Are Brandon and Alice caught in a never-ending nightmare?
The Stairwell is classic, occult horror, mixed in with some modern day mental health issues, such as body dysmorphia, esteem issues, hallucinations and self-harm.
The story is told in two threads, alternating between Brandon – struggling, unemployed artist with self esteem issues and problems in his marriage – and Alice – naive, virginal student plunging headlong into her first romantic relationship with a man she has only just met. Chapter by chapter we follow these two main characters as their lives quickly disintegrate into nightmarish scenarios with a number of similarities: hellish hallucinations, unexpected violence, and loved ones who appear to have been possessed.
From the very beginning, we are plunged straight into the darkness, as Brandon witnesses his wife perform horrifically violent and clearly paranormal activities, apparently controlled by some demonic external (or internal) force. But can he – or we – trust his own senses?
Both Brandon and Alice are clearly troubled characters, even before the paranormal horror oozes into their lives. Both have low self-esteem and are constantly putting down their own accomplishments and physical features. Brandon struggles with alcohol addiction and depressive tendencies, whilst Alice is generally managing her life a little better at first, but is quick to fall for the first stranger to smile at her and then ignore any qualms she has about Niel and be willing to promise her life away to save his almost immediately. Neither has any kind of defense against the darkness that is about to engulf them.
Dean Bryant slowly winds the two separate stories around each other, building an atmosphere of ominous, oppressive inevitability as his heroes flail desperately against an overwhelmingly superior foe, cloaked in mystery. Their individual spirals eventually lead to a shocking showdown and a cleverly ambiguous ending which leaves the reader guessing and – depending on the reader’s intestinal fortitude – turning on all the lights before bed!
Fans of supernatural horror films like Drag Me To Hell will enjoy this dark debut from Dean Bryant, which delivers a terrifying take on ideas of possession and compulsion.
She reached for me with broken, disfigured fingers. Her face was now centimetres from mine. Despite her jaw hanging grotesquely, a voice echoed from within her. “This is the beginning, Brandon,” it said, before the black veins from around her eyes extended out of her face. The last thing I remember seeing that night was those veins snaking their way to my eyes, and piercing them leaving me in pitch blackness. Before I passed out, I could feel the creature slipping away, but not before whispering, for a final time,
“just the beginning.”– Dean Bryant, The Stairwell
The Stairwell is available on Amazon right now!
Don’t forget to check out the other blog stops on the tour for more great reviews and content (see the poster below for details)!