August 1940: while Hitler's bombers are busy reducing London to rubble, biologist George Lawrenson is nearing the climax of Project Genesis – a daring experiment aimed at breeding a super-race to combat Hitler's armies. But the results of his work are so appalling in their implications that Churchill personally orders Lawrenson silenced and all traces of his experiment destroyed.
Almost half a century later Jon and Sue Hacket are contemplating the ruins of their marriage. A relationship already under strain now seems to have been destroyed by the savage murder of their baby daughter Lisa, und the couple retreat to the small town of Hinkston to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.
But Hinkston is a town with a secret. A series of horrific and unexplained murders has brought terror to the area, and when Sue approaches Dr. Edward Curtis – a man famous in Hinkston for his treatment of infertile woman – to help her conceive another child, past and present evils give birth to a new nightmare …
Reading Hutson today is a bit difficult. One notices a progress in his craft, on the other hand you also can't ignore patterns in his writings which not always are for the best.
Nemesis was published a year after the superior Assassin. In hindsight this is a phase where the writer obviously recognised the changing market and tried to adapt. In which he succeeded commercially. He managed to sell his work to mainstream publishers until 2010. No mean feat.
Back then plots became are bit more complex, novels became longer. From the beginning Hutson tried a broad approach thematically, he never was exclusively what one could call a writer of the supernatural. And to his credit he didn't write the same story twenty times because it sold.
This surely helped him to survive when the horror bubble burst. Nemesis is basically a mad scientist and his monsters' tale, but it also leans heavily into the thriller direction he a few years later increasingly followed to rather mixed results.
Nemesis is insofar interesting that it features evil children and murdered children, a topic he visited time and again. I never realized how many of his novels are basically about missing or murdered children.
Also, Nemesis featured his from this point in his career often done technique of building his story on two parallel strands which at the end come together. And like in other books, this also brings mixed results. The bulk of the story is about the psychotic and cannibalistic children Dr Curtis produces. The other storyline is about the murder of the Hacket's daughter. After Jon Hacket chases on of the killers to a hot death on the underground-rails, his accomplice, a slimy paedophile, swears vengeance und stalks the Hackets to kill them. This part of the story is very one-dimensional, not very interesting and feels increasingly superficial. Also it stretches coincidence to the limit, as the bloody climax of this part of course happens in the same hour when Hacket discovers the truth about the evil children and how they are really conceived. Hutson basically used the same structure in Assassin and Renegades. In later years Hybrid comes to mind, a novel which may be one of his most disappointing works yet.
The characterisation is entertaining, as usual all of Hutson's characters are bastards. Still, here he overdoes it quite a few times. The things – and the mutilations - the parents of the evil children endure are ridiculous and even in the context of the story unbelievable from a certain point on, and the twist on the last pages is so over the top that it killed at least my suspense of disbelief. But your mileage may vary. The story itself is rather weak, the less you think about it, the better.
At least the novel delivers in terms of sex and violence. The scene where the hotel owners daughter first seduces a male guest and then eviscerates him while still on top could be a classic, the same goes for the next to last scene, when the murderer gets his punishment while raping the heroine. As if the evil foetus of Spawn weren't enough.
But on the whole Nemesis is an uneven book. It lacks the focused drive of the early, shorter works and in parts it drags a bit. But then it surprises you and suddenly does all the things you love about Hutson and which in later years were (regrettably) increasingly reined in.
I first started reading Hutson circa 1990. Over the next few years I must have read around a dozen of his books. I may have just overdosed on him, but reading Nemesis was a bit of a struggle. It's been so long ago that I can't remember much about it. I tend to limit myself nowadays when reading him, so perhaps it may be time to give Nemesis another go. My hazy recollection is that it wasn't quite up there with some of his others in the gore department, or at least it wasn't so consistently gory.
I dropped off after Assassin - no idea why, as I seem to have enjoyed it, though maybe not as much as its predecessors. Have mentioned it to the point of tedium but as with James Herbert, so with Shaun Hutson. Loved the early novels, after which, the more they improved their craft, for some reason, the less I enjoyed the results. Agree with Andy, SH deserves great credit for writing the books he wants to write rather than Slugs 10: A New Beginning or what have you.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty.
Yes, I agree. The earlier books are generally the ones I prefer as well. He did seem to mellow in his later books. Nemesis was written during the period when Hutson was moving away from straight horror to books which had both horror and thriller elements, for example, Renegades and Heathen, before he moved into violent thrillers like Knife Edge and Exit Wounds. His books used to be a staple of my local library's horror section, but I was surprised that there was nothing there by him the last time I paid a visit.
This may be the Europeans outsider view who never held a weapon in his life, but Hutson's later novels seemed uncharacteristically gun-porny for a Brit. He didn't overdo it and it sounded authentic, but it was a bit baffling if you compare it with other violent british crime-novels like, say, Mark Timlin.
I thought I read somewhere that Hutson had an interest in guns, though I am not sure if he has ever owned any. There's a heck of a lot of gunplay in books like Renegades, White Ghost, Assassin, Exit Wounds and Heathen. I haven't read much of his work from the mid 2000s on (Hammer adaptations apart), so don't know if guns feature much anymore.