The City of Unspeakable Fear by Jean Ray
Trade Paperback – Wakefield Press – Jun 2023 -194 pages
Published in occupied Belgium in 1943 a few months after his celebrated novel Malpertuis, The City of Unspeakable Fear remains one of Jean Ray’s most curious works. Haunting an ambiguous interzone between detective novel, horror fiction and Anglophile parody, it follows the misadventures of presumed police officer Sidney Terence Triggs upon his retirement to the sleepy English country town of Ingersham. A cast of characters worthy of Dickens awaits him, from the sympathetic old clerk Ebenezer Doove to the druggist Theobold Pycroft, the eccentric department store owner Gregory Cobwell and a motley collection of other humorously humdrum inhabitants.
The emphatically commonplace quickly gives way to haunted melodrama as Triggs’s new neighbors begin to die violently or vanish. His false identity as a detective is put to the test under the threat of murderous phantoms as city and citizens come apart at the seams.