Saturday, April 21, 2007

Circle of Nightmares - Malcolm Rose

Malcolm Rose's Circle of Nightmares caught my eye in the library because of the title. It looked intriguing, so I borrowed it and found it lived up to its promise.

17 year old Jodie Hilliard's begun investigating the scientific research station at which her father works and she doesn't like what she's finding. Strange experiments are being conducted and the two scientists who previously held the job her father now has, both died in mysterious circumstances and in quick succession. At the heart of the mystery that surrounds the research station is an ancient stone circle which lies within the grounds of the lab. It's been the site of some bizarre local rituals for centuries now and whilst it's become the testing ground for the station's latest device (an incredibly powerful electronic weapon with the potential to stun or even kill people as well as animals), the locals are decidedly unhappy. They've reformed an old society, known as the Hell Fire Club, which outsiders are definitely not welcome to join. One outsider, who has been a resident of the village for a good many years, Ryan, knows all about the society (and much other local history) and he tells Jodie what he knows. She, in turn, shares the knowledge she's gleaned from her Internet researches, hacking and illicit eavesdropping on mobile phone conversations.

She decides to confront her father about her discoveries and although he, initially, is reluctant to listen to her concerns, having his own reasons for wanting the station's device to be tested and proved effective (Jodie's mother was killed by a terrorist bomb), he finally takes note and goes to confront his boss. Unfortunately, his boss is less than interested and Jodie's father is killed, as are three members of the Hell Fire Club who'd gone to the stone circle to cleanse it. Jodie's left an orphan and although her elderly maternal grandfather comes over from Australia, she realises that he's not up to becoming her guardian, having already lost his daughter. Since she's four months short of her 18th birthday, Ryan's parents agree that she can go and stay with them. but the Director of the research station knows that Jodie and Ryan were in the vicinity of the station when her father and the three members of the Hell Fire Club were killed in the weapon's test, so he sends his security men after them. A bomb is planted in Ryan's parents' house, but Jodie's wolfhound, Wolfie, wakes her up and alerts her to its presence. Ryan's dad, who knows about explosives from his work in a quarry, sends the teenagers and his wife outside whilst he attempts to defuse the bomb. Unfortunately he's killed and now Jodie is set on a major collision course with the Director of the Research Station. Can she and Ryan publicise what the Director and his staff are doing? Can they stop them from developing the weapon any further? The book has a nail-biting finale which, despite this being a spoiler review, I'm not going to reveal.

What really surprised me about this book is the fact that it was published in 1997. Its plot is so up-to-date, you'd be forgiven for thinking it came out last year.

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