Title: THE BREACH
Author: M. T. Hill
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Science Fiction
BACK COVER BLURB
Freya Medlock, a reporter at her local paper, is down on her luck and chasing a break. When she’s assigned to cover the death of a young climber named Stephen, she might just have the story she needs. Digging into Stephen’s life, Freya uncovers a strange photo uploaded to an urban exploration forum not long before he died. It seems to show a weird nest, yet the caption below suggests there’s more to it.
Freya believes this nest – discovering what it really is and where it’s hidden – could be the key to understanding the mysteries surrounding Stephen’s death.
Soon she meets Shep, a trainee steeplejack with his own secret life. When Shep’s not working up chimneys, he’s also into urban exploration – undertaking dangerous ‘missions’ into abandoned and restricted sites. As Shep draws Freya deeper into the urbex scene, the circumstances of Stephen’s death become increasingly unsettling – and Freya finds herself risking more and more to get the answers she wants.
But neither Freya nor Shep realise that some dark corners are better left unlit.
WHAT I THOUGHT
THE BREACH has everything going for it, a great premise, scary action tinged with an overlay of creeping terror, and a promise of a shock or two along the way. That said, however, this one fell short, for me at least, on one major count: characterisation. And anyone who knows me, and reads my reviews regularly will know, it put a great deal of emphasis on characters and their arcs. I want to see them grow, I want to see depth, I want to believe in these people and, therefore, how they’re challenged by the situations they find themselves in.
Sadly, The Breach never quite delivered on any of those counts when it comes to the two main protagonists, whose shoulders the weight of this story, and premise, fall upon. They never really hit the right notes, especially Freya Medlock (the Journalist) who had about as much depth as the paper she was printed on. A generic female with little if any personality, there as a vehicle.
The other leading character, a steeplejack by trade, Shep (short for Shepard) does at least have a little more going for him, but not much. I wanted so much more from these two, that the author just failed to deliver on. For instance, Shep is in an exceptionally dangerous line of work, he literally hangs off the side of soaring brick towers, and petrochemical factory structures hundreds of feet up in the air, in all weather.
Yet, all these scenes setting up who he is and what he does, and these amazing set pieces of daring do, all fall flat. We never really get a feel for the danger, when we should be feeling his vertigo, and keen sense of awareness, we’re given a guidebook tour. The prose lack any real edge to it.
Which belies how creepy, and downright horrific everything becomes—accompanied by a foreboding sense of terror—when Shep and then later, Shep and Freya are beneath ground during one of Shep’s ‘Urbex’ missions into a restricted abandoned site with a frightening secret.
It’s here, in these couple of chapters, that we really see everything ‘light’ up, and come to life in a way only a nightmare can, in dark, damp, creepy fashion. As we wonder what’s behind us, stalking us from the deep dark depths of our own imaginations.
Here is Hill’s writing strength, in these moments. Sadly, they are too few and far between the humdrum that is the rest of the novel. As such, The Breach could have been an outstanding horror read, but in the end, it fell flat.