John Lees and Iain Laurie – And Then Emily Was Gone (4 stars)

John Lees and Iain Laurie – And Then Emily Was Gone

Smart plotting, fresh and genuinely creepy, Lees and Laurie have created a distinctive calling card


‘There’s a world of the screaming impossible all around us, something so far beyond our comprehension that most of us just block it out,’ reveals disfigured village sage Mental Jimmy midway through the tale, adding spine-crawling credence to our anti-hero’s constant visions of creeping things lurking in plain sight. The village is the one on the fictitious Orkney island of Merksay and the anti-hero is Greg Hellinger, a mainland former cop whose speciality was tracking down the missing, now retired after his own brutal tragedy.

In John Lees’ script there are plenty of callbacks to specific films and cinema tropes, and there’s one right there in the monster-plagued Hellinger’s return from his sleepless existence for one last case. Both based in the central belt of Scotland, Lees and artist Iain Laurie have created a vivid and truly frightening world on Merksay, where schoolgirl Emily has gone missing – supposedly offered up by her parents willingly to the local spirit Bonnie Shaw, according to her best friend Fiona, who has contacted Hellinger for help.

There are heavy shades of Twin Peaks, The Wicker Man and Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia here, but Lees and Laurie have condensed the influences into something fresh and genuinely creepy. The combination of Lees’ smart, compact plot (it was originally published as a five-part serial , so the story spikes with frequent cliffhangers) and Laurie’s art, so vivid in creating new horrors springing from the walls and floorboards, has created a raw but utterly distinctive calling card for both creators.

Out now.

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