Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Their lives were about to explode and a bitter, heartbreaking end was fast approaching.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I partially take it back about Felixstowe being devoid of all Robiny setting romance. Martin and Paul’s drive along the coast has a wonderfully theatrical air to it – those concrete structures waiting ‘like alien sculptures’, looking like mould from above, are a very creepy real-life embellishment. If anybody wants a soundtrack to that scene, I immediately thought of The Soulless Party’s pastoral nightmare ‘Tales from the Black Meadow’ – here’s the title track.
On to Gerald, probably the most lovable character in this series. I really enjoy all the detail that’s put into his house and garden (I’d stay at his B&B if I had the chance, it sounds like a lovely contrast to Felixstowe town centre) and of course, he’s an important piece of representation in Robin Jarvis canon, being the first confirmed gay character we’ve seen. (I like to think of him as a sort of spiritual successor to Giraldus, one half of what was arguably Robin’s real first gay couple, back in The Oaken Throne.)
In some ways, visiting Gerald is like a little holiday for Martin and Paul – Martin gets to have a chat about ordinary things and put aside the Disaster for a moment, and Paul is able to forget the ‘weird’ behavior of his friends that day at school. I definitely see Ben and Mr Roper in Paul and Gerald, and it’s quite heartwarming that this, the most horrible of Robiny series’, is letting us have a second chance at that dynamic – it almost heals the trauma of Mr Roper being so cruelly dispatched in A Warlock in Whitby.
Finally, there’s Martin’s encounter with Dancing Jacks, which confirms what I’ve been saying about the actual prose of Austerly Fellows’ great work being a bit, well, in need of an editor. More spookily, it also confirms that the power of Dancing Jacks is 90% Patented Austers Magic (TM). So now we have to ask – what is it about Martin that makes him immune? I have my own theory, but I’ll get to it further down the line.
Matt’s Thoughts: Now this is a chapter I remember. Considering it contained the first introduction of a gay character and a reverse marriage proposal in the same chapter, it was hard to miss. Robin Jarvis is now writing for a modern audience.
I will also admit that this time around, I decided to take the book’s suggestion and have a look at the Google Earth photos of the Felixstowe coast. Once you hear that description that the concrete coast reinforcements look like black mould invading Felixstowe, it’s hard to see it as anything else …
Finally, some bitter irony – one of my favourite of Mr Jarvis’ story-telling devices – in the ending here. The book, for whatever reason, doesn’t work on Martin, so he is saved from its influence. But because of that, he completely misses the danger of the whole thing and dismisses Shiela’s warning. And so we get another one of those whiplash foreshadowing chapter endings: ‘a bitter, heartbreaking end was fast approaching’.