A Fast Paced Page-Turner
R.L. Stine’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb remains one of the best Goosebumps books ever written. The unique setting coupled with an evil mummy on the loose made it an instant classic. Since then there have been a few books here and there depicting Egyptian history in horror format but none that have really stood out.
Well, J.G. Faherty’s latest book, Ragman, is here to try and buck that trend. While an Egyptian Mummy is the main antagonist/monster of the piece, this book plays out much closer to a crime detective thriller with light wisps of horror rather than a tomb-sprawling, desert-choked horror like that aforementioned Goosebumps book.
Ragman’s premise is pretty simple and early on, there are definitely echoes of the 1999 movie, The Mummy. The actual plot begins in 1882, with a group of British soldiers plundering an Egyptian temple. After killing the high priest and taking off with some invaluable treasures, the priest vows revenge, and sets out to do just that when he’s eventually revived in the present day.
The priest sets out to exact revenge on the descendants of those soldiers, using an ancient demon which happens to be a monstrous mummy. As the bodies begin to stack up, two police officers Dan and Tom – both former partners and burdened by bad blood between them – are forced to team up and get to the bottom of this. But with time running out and the number of victims growing, it’s a race against time.
Ragman’s premise is pretty good and the book is stylized just like a film too. The perspective shifts between various characters, including the revived priest, Tom and Dan. There’s also a couple of other players whose perspective we see but I won’t spoil that here. Each chapter is pretty pacey and easy to read, with around 10/15 minutes maximum. This really helps to keep things feeling brisk and pacey, with the final 25% of the book or so actually increasing the pace and becoming a moreish page-turner.
Ragman is certainly enjoyable and there’s a decent amount of characterisation here too. The central trio of characters – Dan, Tom and Joanna – have a lot of baggage between them and that’s soon unpacked around the midway point of the show.
It’s a pretty formulaic bit of drama in truth, but it works well in Ragman, as the focus is squarely on the murders and stopping the cursed creature.
With around 260 pages, this is a very simple, easy read but at times there’s a bit too much “catch-up” police work. The tricky part with doing a story from the antagonist’s perspective is that we know what’s happening before our main characters. This does become a bit of a repetitive trend in the story, as Dan and Tom show up at crime scenes and try to figure out what happened… and play catch-up with us, the reader, who already know.
Compared to something like Se7en, where each crime scene was unique and you felt like you were part of the mystery every time you entered the scene, Ragman doesn’t have much in the way of mystery because of the way it’s written. As I said though, it’s not a deal breaker but I can’t help but feel the book could have been a lot more powerful and endearing had those segments been cut altogether.
Despite those gripes, Ragman is an enjoyable read. This is more of a crime thriller than an outright horror, and it’s certainly not without its problems, but given the book is less than 300 pages long it’s a good way to spend an evening or two.
Our thanks to Netgalley and Flame Tree Press for the advanced reader’s copy! Ragman will be published on January 1oth 2023. You can pre-order the novel here!
Verdict - 7/10