The success and reputation of Ray Celestin’s four previous crime thrillers – that started off with The Axeman’s Jazz, ended with Sunset Swing and have become known as the City Blues Quartet – mean his latest, Palace Of Shadows, has a lot to live up to. Within the pages of Palace Of Shadows, Oscar Wilde’s disgraced artist friend Samuel Etherstone is broke and drifting through London circa 1899. Etherstone creates nightmarish optical illusions with a dash of Goya or Bosch thrown into his dark art; critics have labelled him the Piranesi of London.
Mysterious heiress Mrs Chesterfield contacts Etherstone’s agent, asking for him to work on a commission for a house she is building on the North Yorkshire coast. Etherstone, who needs the cash, makes the journey, and on arrival learns of the disappearance of the Chesterfield house’s original architect, as well as disturbing tales of madness, death and destruction. The deeper Etherstone gets involved with the Chesterfield project, the more disturbing things become.
Celestin’s first novel outside jazz and mob-referencing serial-killer thrillers is a dive into the realm of gothic horror. Palace Of Shadows is as authentically detailed as Dickens, sophisticatedly horrific as Poe, and is more than enough to give readers the chills on dark autumn nights.
Palace Of Shadows, Ray Celestin (Pan Macmillan)
Price: £16.99. Info: here
words DAVID NOBAKHT