Reviewed by Katy O’Dowd
The Respectable Face of Tyranny could be a cautionary tale on the perils of deep thinking. Whereby Josh, failed in finances, marriage, with a daughter to care for and unwell mother to visit ruminates on life and seemingly slowly drives himself completely mad with the stress of it all.
Comfortably close to the bone for a lot of us in these straitened economic times. So comfortably close to the bone that Gary Fry has our full attention and empathy from the very first word. Devilishly clever that.
So then, throughout this rather marvellous novella, we are keen observers to the thoughts of our hero – the poor (in more ways than one), beleaguered Josh, who has thing after thing to deal with thrown at him. Small wonder, then, that he starts seeing things around the periphery of his vision and signs drawn in the sand.
The book starts with an argument between a father (Josh) and his teenage daughter (Sally), and we observe, cringing at times it has to be said, his clumsy attempts at having a decent relationship with her. Those with teenagers of their own will know the horrors of that particular human parental rite of passage.
And then the creeping dread sets in.
The crawling sensation you get when you just know that something really horrible is just around the corner.
For this, the author uses a boat, and uses it so well that it becomes another character. It would not be the first supernatural boat to appear in a story in Whitby, but Fry’s boat has less teeth. And stranger, more cosmic creatures than Stoker’s Dracula come to blight the land and spread their creeping menace.
The twin strands of fiscal failure and supernatural stalkers weave together beautifully in an intriguing premise and it can be hard at times to decide, as a reader, which is more dreadful for Josh as both compound his sense of inadequacy and fear of the unknown.
But then something happens to change his world forever. And it’s not him winning the lottery. You’ll have to read this creepy, dark work yourself to find out what it is – but take it from me, it’ll be well worth your time.