Charles Prepolec's Reviews > The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School

The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
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It might have all begun with Kim's 1994 book The Original Dr. Shade and Other Stories. Or perhaps in the short story 'Clubland Heroes' that appeared in Joe Lansdale's anthology Retro Pulp Tales in 2006 (reprinted in The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club 2007). Or even a vague element of his most recent novel An English Ghost Story. But while all are obviously contributing factors, the heart of the story, as noted in the acknowledgements, is an expansion, or extension, of the 2010 novella 'Kentish Glory: The Secret of Drearcliffe Grange School' as published in Mysteries of the Diogenes Club. For longtime Newman fans, this sort of cross pollination is exactly as it should be, and for this reader, the result is an utter delight. For readers not so well grounded in Newman's sort of linked worlds, or an utter newbie to Newman's writing, or even someone coming directly from An English Ghost Story, it may be a slightly baffling read, at least so far as to why he's writing 'Girl's Own' style fantasy adventure in 2015.

This is nothing like the sort of scholastic bait and switch SF philosophizing in a Kazuo Ishiguro-esque Never Let Me Go, vein, nor is it the beautifully horrifying apocalyptic little-girl-done wrong ala Mike Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts (although if you blended those two books with a Ronald Searles 'St. Trinian's' cartoon, or the associated cinematic stylings, you'd be on the right track), instead it is unabashedly pure Grade-A Kim Newman Brit-pulp, with all the usual nods to external influences (Sally Nikola is clearly the spawn of Guy Boothby's Dr. Nikola) and his own previous work (Janice Marsh of 'The Big Fish' makes an appearance, as does Catriona Kaye of numerous Diogenes Club stories). In short, this is a glorious return to Kim Newman's 'Diogenes Club' stories form.

In a spoiler-free nutshell, the plot (it's a superhero origin story of sorts, if you've read the two Diogenes Club stories I mentioned above)revolves around young Amy Thomsett, a girl with an 'Unusual' ability, who is sent off to the Drearcliffe Grange boarding school for girls, shortly after WWI, where she gets caught up in some almost Lovecraftian extra-dimensional hijinx while trying to fit in with her classmates. Sounds simple? Almost YA-like? Well, don't be fooled, it's creepy, funny, and with some downright nasty moments, and it all comes together to be greater than the sum of its parts with Newman nailing the period language and character types perfectly.

As I said, perhaps not the best book to begin with to enter the delights of Kim Newman's vaguely connected worlds, although not the worst either, given that Titan will be reprinting Kim's 'Diogenes Club' stories shortly, it's not the worst place to get on board. Me, I loved it and look forward to more.
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Reading Progress

November 11, 2015 – Started Reading
November 11, 2015 – Shelved
November 11, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
November 11, 2015 –
page 115
28.75% "115 pages in and I have a burning desire to watch The Belles of St. Trinian's. Enjoying this a lot."
November 19, 2015 – Finished Reading

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