Carol Anne Davis
The Do Not Press / 244 pages / (April 2, 2001)
Oozing, slimy, mutant monsters don’t scare me anymore. It’s the human monsters among us that keep me constantly wary. These hidden killers are the actual horror that lashes out every day — and Carol Anne Davis knows it. No wonder hers is among the most terrifying fiction in existence; it could just as easily be true. And that ought to scare the hell out of anyone.
In a block of flats in a residential area of Edinburgh, rage is simmering and it’s about to erupt in savagery that will stun the nation. Downstairs, Stephen and Caroline Day want only to go about their everyday lives. Upstairs, three young men appear intent on thwarting the Days at every turn. To be more precise, the neighbours above are creating a little hell on earth. It’s torture without provocation. And it’s getting more agonising by the minute.
The Days are trapped in a nightmarish situation and can see no way out. The ear-bleeding noise from upstairs steals their sleep, shatters their nerves, ruins Caroline’s health, and makes it impossible to sell the flat and move away. Even when they want to give up, they can’t. Finally, Stephen decides to settle the ugly feud his own way. And that is the worst thing that could ever happen to all of them.
Davis’ portrayal of an unstable mind sinking inexorably deeper into madness is stunningly realistic. The reader watches, paralysed, helpless to prevent the inevitable tragedies that race toward them. It is a breathtaking, shattering experience.
Noise Abatement leaves us protesting that we, the gentle readers, could never go so far, never lose control that way. But, somewhere deep inside, is a tiny voice that says don’t be so sure. Who knows what each of us is capable of? More significant, how do we know when someone else will reach the breaking point? Is the person behind you on the escalator just waiting for an excuse to blow? The fear is in never knowing the answers.
Dark realism has its star players and Carol Anne Davis is certainly in the forefront of this emerging sub-genre. So few can tighten the screws as well as she does in every novel. Shrouded is shocking. Safe As Houses is chilling. Noise Abatement is pure, petrifying terror. Every one is like a dreadful train wreck — we want to stop looking, but nothing can tear us away from the scene. She is that talented.
There is one more thing Davis’ books deliver: a chance to wake up; be on the watch for the monsters in hiding around us all. Listen to her and be a bit safer. Not many novels offer that kind of a chance. Take it and be grateful. And try to be patient until that next novel comes along.