Book Reviews

Book Review: The Nameless By Ramsey Campbell

Book Review: The Nameless By Ramsey CampbellNine years after her four-year-old daughter, Angela, was murdered, Barbara Waugh has got her life back on track and learned to live with the pain. Barbara has become a successful literary agent and things are going well. Then she receives a phone call and a voice at the other end of the line says the one word that is capable of opening up the old wounds and turning Barbara’s life upside down. That word is “mummy”.

Barbara has her doubts about the identity of the caller. It could quite easily be a hoax, especially as she has recently been the subject of a magazine article. She is a wealthy woman whose child was murdered nine years ago—just the right kind of target for the wrong type of people. Even though Barbara is such a perfect victim for a confidence trickster, it is pretty obvious, right from the start, that the caller is going to turn out to be Angela.

It is not long before Barbara finds herself on the trail of a mysterious cult that does not have a name. The cult moves around from area to area and never stays in one place for very long. Because of this they are hard to pin down and seem to be almost a myth. One of the first things members of the cult have to do is reject their names and they reject them so completely that they cannot even remember them. They truly are nameless. They are also extremely evil. I will not bother cataloguing their list of crimes, but if you are a regular reader of horror fiction none of the cult’s misdeeds should shock you too much. If horror is not the kind of thing that you usually take to bed with your cocoa, you should probably add a few extra spoons of sugar to the cup, just in case.

The Nameless is a little over 270 pages long and as the tale unfolds Barbara certainly gets around. She lives and works in London, but her search for Angela takes her as far North as Scotland and, at one point, her job forces her to pause her search and fly over to New York for a book auction. No matter where she may roam, Angela is never far from Barbara’s mind. How could she be? The calls on keep coming.

The basic storyline is obviously Barbara’s search for her daughter, but her relationship with a man called Ted comes a close second. Ted is a writer, but he is not on Barbara’s books, so there is no mixing of business and pleasure. They seem to have quite a solid relationship, but it could hardly be called the romance of the century. Ted comes across as a dependable person who Barbara can rely on when she needs an ear to bend or someone to warm the other side of her bed, but the relationship is altogether too bland for my tastes.

Other characters come and go. One such character is a young investigative reporter called Gerry Martin, who tries to infiltrate the cult. When she eventually does so she finds out the answers to some questions she would never have thought to ask. Ted’s ex-wife turns up from time to time as well to add a little more misery to his life, and he also sees his daughter once a week so that he can get a little taste of guilt as well. Angela’s father, Arthur, also has a part to play in the proceedings, which is interesting because he died before she was born.

The Nameless is quite a dark tale and, unlike a lot of stories, it could not be said to walk the line between horror and another genre. This one definitely belongs on the book shops’ horror shelves. The Nameless is a satisfying read and I am glad to say that everything is resolved at the end, but I do feel that it would have been a stronger book if the relationships between the characters had a little more passion to them. Ted, like Arthur before him, is dependable—a rock—but I never got the impression that either one of the men in Barbara’s life were likely to make her heart miss a beat. Dependable rocks are great and all of that moss they gather can even be comfortable, but they are still boring. Rolling stones are more interesting; you can chase a rolling stone and you never know where it will lead you.