This is the second novella in Khaw’s Persons Non-Grata series that mix Lovecraftian tropes with noir and psychic detective elements. I enjoyed the first in the series and this second novella has a similar confident command of setting and horror.
The common element between the two is the character, John Persons but his role is more secondary with the focus shifting to a 1950’s Blues musician Deacon James. Journeying north for work James finds himself increasingly troubled by nightmarish images that are somehow connected to the music he plays.
The set-up was excellent I felt. Deacon James is a man with great talent who nonetheless finds himself impoverished and on the fringes of society – a position which also appears to be pushing him towards the fringes of reality. However, the resolution of the story didn’t quite work for me – I suppose because there was nowhere else for it to go. There’s a story to be told about the Victorian
There’s a story to be told about the Victorian/Early 20th-century conception of ‘madness’ and the association between mental health and those find themselves marginalised by society. However, that would be a story that would be very easy to go horribly wrong and this story (sensibly) just touches the edges of it.