Horror at an English Country Manor


Ishmael Jones hunts monsters. He solves mysteries and uncovers dark secrets. He works for Britain’s Organization, which does not officially exist within government. He feels like he is doing some good there, and working for the Organization allows him to maintain his anonymity.

“The Dark Side of the Road”, a science fiction novel by Simon R. Green introduces Ishmael Jones. Jones is a man apart; someone who respects only the Colonel, the Organization’s chief. Jones has worked with the Colonel on numerous field assignments. Two days before Christmas the Colonel contacts Jones requesting Jones join the Colonel for Christmas at the Colonel’s family home.

It is the first time the Colonel has invited Jones to meet his family. It must be important. The Colonel asks as a personal favor and says he will discuss the reason why Jones is needed when Jones arrives. Jones leaves London that night in a rented car for the drive to Belcourt Manor in rural Cornwall. Despite a vicious blizzard that has the roads shut down.

When Jones arrives he discovers the Colonel’s family and friends of the family are there, but not the Colonel. The Colonel went to bed in his room the previous night but has not been seen since. The Colonel’s father, literally lord of the manor, hands Jones a letter the Colonel wrote against the eventuality that the Colonel was unavailable when Jones arrived. It warns Jones there is a horror at the manor and asks Jones to protect the Colonel’s family from it.

At the manor are the Colonel’s mother (divorced from his father) and her female companion, his father, stepmother and half-sister Penny, the father’s man of business, and a suitor rejected by Penny. There is also a butler named Jeeves (not his real name, but for what the father is paying he is willing to go by it) and the cook. The rest of the servants are off. Everyone is trapped in the manor by the blizzard. Then people start dying and Jones cannot stop it.

The result reads as if Green took an Agatha Christie mystery, an H. P. Lovecraft horror story and an Arthur C. Clarke science fiction tale, put them in a cyclotron, and smashed them together. “The Dark Side of the Road” is science fiction that reads like fantasy. The start of a new series, it leaves readers eager for the sequels.

“The Dark Side of the Road,” by Simon R. Green, Baen Books, 2022, 272 pages, $17.00 (Trade Paperback), $8.99 (Ebook)

This review was written by Mark Lardas, who writes at Ricochet as Seawriter. Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, historian, and model-maker, lives in League City, TX. His website is marklardas.com.

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