Book Review: The Pale Ones by Bartholomew Bennett

The Pale Ones is an atmospheric stroll through 117 pages of quiet horror. This book doesn’t shock or disgust, it carefully and slowly picks away at the emotions creating a gradual sense of unease, caution, and distrust. As our narrator embarks on the equivalent of a pub crawl for book buyers at the behest of his new-found acquaintance, Harris, a seasoned second-hand book expert full of wit and wisdom; it becomes gradually clear that all is not what it seems.

Harris delights in collecting the unloved. He wonders if you’d care to
donate. A small something for the odd, pale children no-one has seen.
An old book, perchance?

The premise at first appears disquietingly mundane. The world of second-hand book scouting and the intricate details of what a buyer should look for when the aim is to sell onwards for profit at first appear to be nothing out of the ordinary, but it is the character development that takes a seemingly routine narrative and transforms it into a haunting experience that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ramsey Campbell anthology.

As a book collector, avid reader, and more specifcally a fan of a wide range of sub-genres within the horror spectrum, this book ticked all the boxes in terms of piquing my interest. I loved getting lost in the carefully crafted prose describing the pleasures of browsing second-hand bookshops and the process of buying books which served as a sort of ASMR for my bibliophilic brain.

The Pale Ones is drenched in an almost gothic-like atmosphere that for me cast memories of many Shirley Jackson short stories. Dark, quietly creepy and beautifully written, The Pale Ones is the beginning of my love affair with the writing of Bartholomew Bennett.

5-star rating

book review 5 stars

The Pale Ones by Bartholomew Bennett is available now in paperback and e-book.

About the author

Bartholomew Richard Emenike Bennett was born in Leicester, the middle son of an American father and English mother. He has studied and worked in the US and New Zealand, and has a First Class Honours degree in Literature from the University of East Anglia. The Pale Ones is his first published work, although he has been writing fiction, long-form and short, since 2002.

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