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The Searching Dead

(The Three Births of Daoloth #1)

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  147 ratings  ·  60 reviews
1952. On a school trip to France teenager Dominic Sheldrake begins to suspect his teacher Christian Noble has reasons to be there as secret as they're strange. Meanwhile a widowed neighbour joins a church that puts you in touch with your dead relatives, who prove much harder to get rid of. As Dominic and his friends Roberta and Jim investigate, they can’t suspect how much ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 16th 2021 by Flame Tree Press
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Set in post-war Liverpool, a young man and his two best friends develop concerns about a teacher at their religious school. Soon, the school's headmaster and the parents of the children develop concerns as well. Is this is a case of bored teenagers with overactive imaginations, or are the kids on to something? You'll have to read this to find out!

The post-war setting almost became a character itself here. Even though I was born in a city that has a famous armory, I've never really pictured in my
Gary Fry
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over 25 years ago Campbell wrote a book called MIDNIGHT SUN, which he now, with typical humility, describes as an “honourable failure”. Would that the rest of us could pen such failures! I know I’m not alone in considering that novel a very fine contribution to the field of cosmic horror, but perhaps we should be happy that the author is never satisfied with his stuff and always aims higher.

In interviews around that time, Campbell claims that “maybe in another 20 years” he’ll have “another go”
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A number of years ago I was reading a book on Quentin Tarantino and there's a section where he discusses his fondness for Italian exploitation film directors (such as Antonio Margheriti), and while Tarantino admitted that many of those directors were hacks, all the same they were hacks who knew what they were doing and how when you sat down to watch their films you knew you were in good hands. I bring this up (and considering Campbell's reputation as a film buff, it seems relevant) because that ...more
Catherine Cavendish
Ramsey Campbell's style is pure magic and this book is an horrific delight. Here, he evokes the sights and sounds of his native Liverpool in the Fifties, where whole streets and districts were still bomb sites after the devastation of bombing during the war. His main character, Dominic Sheldrake, recalls his childhood and the history teacher who took him and a bunch of schoolmates on an unforgettable trip to France. Mr Noble is no ordinary teacher. Dominic and his two closest friends discover th ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Put down whatever you are reading and go and buy this right now. Slow-building horror that ebbs and flows in a childhood setting so detailed you can smell the chalk-dust. And this is the first of three novels, with a sequel apparently at first draft stage already. My only complaint is that this isn't available off-the-shelf in bookshops and a wider readership is missing out on an outstanding novel. ...more
Cody | CodysBookshelf
Set in the 1950s Liverpool, The Searching Dead is the first book in a trilogy and concerns the coming of age of Dominic Sheldrake, and his strange Spiritualist schoolteacher.

This book was a return to Lovecraftian horror for Campbell: having dabbled in it throughout his career, especially in the early years, this book is a mature, fully fledged ode to spirituality and growing up and horrors the mind can’t quite comprehend.

Because this is Campbell, the scares are not loud or in your face—though
Sadie Hartmann
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cemetery-dance
Wow! This is only my second Ramsey Campbell book and I'm hesitant to confess that we did not have the best of introductions. But this book has turned things around! I'm so excited this is the first in a series. Writing up my review for Cemetery Dance now!
(Thank you Flame Tree Press Team for sending me a very early NetGalley )
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Murray Ewing
When Mr Noble, a teacher at Dominick Sheldrake’s Roman Catholic school, brings his father into an assembly to talk about his experiences in the Second World War, the old man tells of a field where he was stationed that seemed hungry to receive the dead. When Mr Noble then suggests a school trip to view the battlefields in France, Dominick starts to think his somewhat unconventional teacher may be trying to visit the field his father talked about, and for no good reasons.

Set in the early 1950s, T
I had high hopes for my very first (shame on me) Ramsey Campbell book, and in the end I was not disappointed. Though the beginning was slow - so very slow - and I feared I might be in for a very lengthy story with lots of sidetracks and little actual plot, soon I found I was totally immersed in Dominic Sheldrake's life, his view of the world and what he experienced. His struggle to cope with the situation, the adults' ignorance and the strict upbringing of that time provided a powerful and convi ...more
Aiden Merchant
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the past year, I've discovered Ramsey Campbell and his quietly executed brand of horror. Of the four or five titles of his I've read so far, each has left me intrigued and interested, but never horrified. In fact, I think the trolley scene in today's book - The Searching Dead - is the most grotesque thing I've read from him so far. Generally, my experience has been that a mysterious and fantastical atmosphere subtly shines the way for Campbell's stories. Though this does mean some slow sectio ...more
Stephen Bacon
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Searching Dead is published by Flame Tree Press (following its original publication several years ago in a limited edition by PS Publishing) and is the first part of Ramsey Campbell’s Daoloth trilogy, to be followed by Born to the Dark and The Way of the Worm. Set in Liverpool in 1952 it follows the story of schoolboy Dominic Sheldrake and his friends Jim and Bobby. Dominic, the narrator, lives with his parents and attends a local all-boys Catholic school. When his class goes on a school tri ...more
Nicole Sweeney
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Ramsey Campbell is an author I have always wanted to try so when I was offered the chance to read The Searching Dead I jumped at it. The story follows young Dominic Sheldrake as he begins to have suspicions about his history teacher Mr Noble. He learns that his widowed neighbour is part of a church that allows you to contact your dead loved ones and as Dominic and his friend Jim explore France on a school trip he learns that Mr Noble might have other reasons for being there. As Dominic and his f ...more
Brennan LaFaro
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Searching Dead is the first book in a trilogy, originally released in 2016 but never widely available in the U.S. Flame Tree Press will be rectifying that over the next couple years, first with this one then with Born to the Dark next October, and The Way of the Worm following that.
My exposure to Ramsey Campbell has been limited, having read only one other novel and various short fiction. Even with that narrow array, the elements that make Campbell a legend in horror are obvious. Atmosphere
Horror DNA
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: stuart-d-monroe
Ah, cosmic horror. It’s the tried-and-true drug that everyone turns to at least on occasion. After all, we all started out with the Godfather of Eldritch Horror, H.P. Lovecraft. There may be readers out there who escaped his clutches, but I’d be staggered if I ever met one. You could say it’s required reading despite all the other stuff that comes along with his stories.

Similarly, every horror author has tried their hand at it. My first published short story, “From the Drop”, is a straight-up Lo
Jessica Belmont
The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell is the first in a trilogy. I’m so excited to keep reading this story. Ramsey Campbell writes horror in a way that is so inspiring. I feel like this is how horror should be!

This is a slow building story that builds tension as you read. I feel like this allows us to get to know the characters, and understand the plotline. The characters are really well written and I think they felt real.

This is a coming of age story along with horror. As said, this is a slow b
 Reading Reindeer 2021 On Proxima Centauri
If you want to know Horror, or if you want to study to write Horror, delve into the oeuvre of GrandMaster of Horror Ramsey Campbell. I can think of no other author who can so intensely effectively chill my every bone, nor frighten me so subtly. I found his newest,THE SEARCHING DEAD, inexpressibly terrifying and metaphysically far-reaching in its scope. Interweaving early 1950's postwar England coming of age with the advance of a Monstrous evil older than time, now embodied, and frequent hints of ...more
Zach Clark
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the Jamesian prose and the emulation of Graham Greene within this genre. A splendid mixture of traditional British ghost story with a touch of Lovecraft make this a perfect fall read. While some chapters lag in the middle, its important to just soak in Campbell novels and let the atmosphere suffocate you. Much like the London fog, let it creep over you and embrace the inevitable. However, don't think too much about the shapes forming just outside your peripheral vision. ...more
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars Not often I get to read a horror story set in my own city albeit the 1950’s a fascinating world (even without ghosts) is create but a slow burn tale of dread that may not appeal to very one but is surprisingly effective

Full review
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Great horror book and well written. It happens in early 1950s London as two teenagers go on a field trip with their teacher to a battlefield in France. The teenagers and their girl friend begin to notice strange behavior by him when they return to London. Not only is this a good horror tale, but the story of the friends and description of life at that time makes it stand on its own even without the horror aspects. This is the first volume in a trilogy. I will definitely read the others in the se ...more
Per Renström
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently dug into the horror trilogy ”The Three Births of Daoloth” by British author Ramsey Campbell, having a second coming this millenium to aim for awe and cosmic terror again in his distinctive vein of that blasphemously beloved craft.

It felt very weird and on one hand downright wrong to read this grave reminding book so close after the recent loss of a dear, almost life long friend, but I know he would dig it.

The cover is awful, not that it’s bad or cheep but literally Awful, and when one
Becky Spratford
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Review in January 2021 Horror Review column for Library Journal:

Three Words That Describe This Book: epic, coming of age, slow burn

Draft Review:

Campell, Britain’s most decorated horror novelist presents, for the first time in America, the opening novel of a trilogy of biographical novels documenting the horrors of growing up in conservative, post World War II Liverpool and featuring a great and powerful cosmic evil, as one man, Dominic, confronts it over
Sharon Bidwell
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First in a trilogy, this book has more of a slower pace than many modern day novels plus the protagonist is a teenager—unusual in a horror story though this may read more supernatural than horror. It’s certainly not horrific, more creepy with touches of sadness — the older generations do not fair well, from Mrs Norris missing her deceased husband, to Mr Noble’s father and his dark memories of war. While I would have liked to discover more about the strange haunting presences (can’t say more with ...more
Suzanne Synborski
The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell, grand master of cosmic horror, is a phenomenal, magical portal that leads into the renowned trilogy, The Three Births of Daoloth. Campbell performs at his best in this evocative first-person narrative that documents a subtle, creeping introduction to supernatural, coming of age, cosmic horror.

The tale is told by Dominick Seldrake, a young schoolboy who lives in Liverpool just after World War Two. Campbell’s representation of the setting is remarkably vivid
Dec 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Searching Dead is a horror tale full of slowly unfolding terror and dread. This is a story of a boy, Dominic Sheldrake, growing up in post-war England. Horror creeps around the edges of this tale and insidiously unfolds with a steadily increasing sense of dread, oppression, and cosmic horror.

The story-telling is flawless. The characters are well developed, the pacing is consistent, and the storyline knows precisely where it is going, even if the reader does not. Ramsey Campbell is a masterful s
Feb 26, 2021 rated it it was amazing


“The Searching Dead” is a creepy, suspenseful horror that had me wanting more!

The one thing which I like about Campbell’s novels is the slow burn suspense. The author does not disappoint in this book either! The buildup is slow but worth it. I felt like I was right next to Dominic as he tries to figure out the truth behind Mr. Noble. Dominic is a likable character who you root for from the get-go. Moreover, some moments had m
Melissa Sinicki
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of very quiet, subtle cosmic horror
Dominic Sheldrake is a schoolboy in Liverpool, England in the 1950's who attends a private Catholic grammar school. One day, the father of his teacher, Mr. Noble, visits the school to talk about his experiences during the First World War. He makes a big impression on Dominic by recalling a field he visited during the war that seemed somehow spiritually wrong and hungry for souls. Dominic later learns that Mr. Noble has been involved with his neighbor and her church. The rumors are that he is rai ...more
Amanda McHugh
Oct 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ramsey Campbell is a name I see frequently making the rounds in horror conversations on Twitter, so I was really excited to see a new title available on NetGalley and even more thrilled to dive in.

Dominic Sheldrake has an active imagination, but nothing prepares him for the horror that awaits when he begins to suspect that one of his teachers might have ulterior motives in the community. Talk emerges of a man who claims he can connect the dead to their loved ones, that people have heard the dea
Adam Nowicki
Apr 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-jan-june
Fundamentally, this is a story about hopelessness, as many great stories by, and in the vein of, Lovecraft are. Of course you have the unknowable, and the occult, and tentacle monsters and what not. But fundamentally, cosmic horror delights in man’s hopelessness at forces greater than his control, and forces far greater than his ability to comprehend or ever command.

Which brings us to The Searching Dead, and its protagonist, Dominic Sheldrake. A young teen growing up in a very Christian househo
Jan 14, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Searching Dead by Ramsey Campbell is a beautifully crafted coming of age supernatural horror tale set in 1950s post war Liverpool. It tells the story of Dominic Sheldrake, a boy who has just been accepted into a prestigious Catholic school. Dominic is a bright creative student who enjoys reading and writing stories. He is on the precipice of adolescence and is truly a good son, student, friend, neighbor, etc. When Dominic begins his new school, he becomes a bit obsessed with his teacher, Mr. ...more
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Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that "Campbell reigns supreme in the field today," while S. T. Joshi has said that "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood." ...more

Other books in the series

The Three Births of Daoloth (3 books)
  • Born to the Dark
  • The Way of the Worm

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