Book Review: Graham Masterton – Ghost Virus

Originally posted on June 24, 2019

According to the front cover of this novel, the ‘true master of horror’ is back for another book. Note the quote. I wouldn’t say that at all.

I was given a couple of Graham Masterton books from one of his other series, the Katie Maguire books. I must admit, I read about 25 pages of the first and was very bored, but nevertheless I wanted to give his work a go. I was mindlessly flicking through the sci-fi and horror sections at Waterstones when, to my surprise, the name ‘Graham Masterton’ appeared on one of the books. The last place I was expecting his name to come up (apparently it’s what he’s more known for).

The premise of the book looked good. Random acts of violence are being committed by normal people from Tooting: a husband kills his wife, a young woman throws acid over herself for no apparent reason and a caring headteacher throws some of her pupils out of an upstairs window. And while these acts are written extremely well (and brutal, very brutal) they are the standout. The rest of the book seems a bit… naff.

It is telling when you’ve read a book and don’t know if its an effort at satire or not. The plot, clothes running around killing people, is ridiculous, but with the right surrounding circumstances, could be a chilling and unique premise. The characters are unlikeable (DC Jerry Pardoe, the main character, is especially bad and I would have been happy for him to have been dismantled by the coats) and the whole conclusion is one of the worst I have ever read.

If you don’t want spoilers, please don’t read below.

It feels rushed to a point where there is no sensible conclusion. The four characters who are in the psychiatric ward (David, Mindy, Laura and Sophie) eat one of the nurses to satisfy their possessed self’s need for human flesh in the final scene. This essentially undoes the already unsatisfactory conclusion brought about, by the virus itself being carried from Lithuania in second-hand clothes and incubated by a small-time criminal, who happens to be their spiritual ‘god’. No explanation is ever offered as to where the virus originated, or (save a rushed police interview) anything about its creation, its infection etc. Nothing makes sense or is explained. What makes them so powerful? Most infuriatingly, the ending isn’t really one, as they haven’t yet worked out a way of helping the possessed humans and getting them back to their past selves. Is this an effort to make a second book a thing?

The writing itself is good, and the dialogue is more realistic than many other authors’ attempts. But the plot falls off a cliff halfway and the ‘explanation’ offered seems to be a half-hearted attempt to clean up the mess. I don’t recommending avoiding many books, but if you read this one, you’ll be wasting your time.

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