The Possession by Michael Rutger: At times outlandishly bizarre, and at others displaying an unexpected emotional depth, this is a series written with heart, head, humour… and a master’s eye for the truly spectacular - book review -

The Possession
The Possession

A teenage girl’s sudden disappearance, and the mystery of a strange series of spiralling stone walls send an amateur archaeologist on a terrifying mission into the wilds of Northern California.

A teenage girl’s sudden disappearance, and the mystery of a strange series of spiralling stone walls send an amateur archaeologist on a terrifying mission into the wilds of Northern California.

Welcome back to the seriously strange life of American myth and legend investigator Nolan Moore and the second instalment of Californian screenwriter Michael Rutger’s all-round entertaining debut series, The Anomaly Files, which began last year with The Anomaly and is now underproduction by the Gotham Group as a major feature film.

Rutger is on dynamic form in these fast-paced novels which blend black humour, science fiction and graphic horror in a glorious and gripping melee, and turn action adventures into visual, verbal and visceral blockbusters.

Brimming with menace and suspense, and starring a cast of characters so brilliantly imagined and so individually charismatic that each becomes a vital cog in high-tension plotlines spiced with the supernatural, these are stories that deliver belly laughs, chills and thrills in equal measures.

Still recovering from the shocking revelations they uncovered deep in uncharted territory in the Grand Canyon, failed screenwriter and amateur archaeologist Nolan Moore and his team take on a new mission, investigating a rumoured case of witchcraft and possession.

Nolan, who fronts a second-rate YouTube show called The Anomaly Files which specialises in unsolved mysteries, is in the remote town of Birchlake in Northern California with his small team of explorers to investigate a series of mysterious, low, spiralling stone walls that snake miles through the countryside.

No one knows who built them or why but Nolan – accompanied by his trusty team, including his producer and friend Ken, ‘a late-fifty-something pug of an ex-Londoner,’ and the long-suffering cameraman Pierre – is determined to find the truth behind ‘one of the most little-known mysteries in the entire country.’

What he hasn’t told the team is that he is also there to check up on his (now separated) journalist wife, Kristy Reardon, who is in Birchlake on the trail of 14-year-old Alaina Hixonwho disappeared without trace from nearby woodland ten days ago.

The arrival of outsiders is immediately met with suspicion, and even hostility, from the local residents and Nolan discovers that there is a link between the mystery of the missing girl, who had been accused of being a witch, and the secret of the stone walls.

As Nolan and his team are drawn into the search, and a disturbing case of witchcraft and possession, a thick fog descends on the town, cutting it off from the rest of the world. Soon the lines between reality and imagination begin to blur and Nolan and his team are forced to question their own sanity… is there now any way out of what has become a terrifying nightmare?

Rutger is proving to be a masterful storyteller in these tautly written, straight-talking adventure thrillers which can slip with the blink of an eye and the turn of a page from the light-hearted, satirical and the playful into something deep, dark and utterly terrifying.

The Possession, with its creepy mystery, atmospheric setting and intriguing slices of real American history, is a suitably satisfying follow-up to the crazy antics of The Anomaly.

Nolan and his team of misfits – particularly the shared gallows humour with his wonderfully world-weary and cynical sidekick Ken – are one of the central delights of these brilliant page-turners which bristle with evil, white-knuckle tension and an electrifying sense of paranormal horror.

At times outlandishly bizarre, and at others displaying an unexpected emotional depth, this is a series written with heart, head, humour… and a master’s eye for the truly spectacular. Don’t miss it!

(Zaffre, hardback, £18.99)