Stench is a psychological thriller set in the small village of Lower Marton, near Macclesfield. A body is discovered under the floorboards of an old cottage owned by Rory Norton—a motorbike instructor. Rory has given up his old life for a new one out in the country, and manages to keep his past a secret, until the body is found. His two closest friends, Annette and Barney, run the local garage. A chance meeting with a young woman called Anna Chamberlain sets in motion a series of events, which almost ruin Rory’s life. Stench actually starts with the discovery of the body and then takes the reader back to the beginning of the story.
The characters in this story are quite well-developed, although I found it hard to like any of them. Morgan drip-feeds the idea that Rory Norton is not all he seems to be. I found that not enough information was given, as all we are told is that something happened to his wife. At times, Rory even seems too good to be true. Having said that, the twists didn’t feel contrived.
The character of Anna Chamberlain makes for quite a disturbing read. She suffers with mental health issues and is in constant contact with her dead husband. Within this, however, the story highlights some of the failings within mental health services. Her actions are not only believable, but really detailed and well-described. Although Anna was also a hard character to like, I did feel tremendous sadness—and anger—at her plight.
The antagonists in Stench are an obnoxious family that live next to Rory. While running around the place—and believing they are above the law—we find out that Leonard Fewtrell and his family are involved in some heinous dealings. In my opinion, Fewtrell was most believable character. I’m glad that Morgan didn’t labour Fewtrell’s less-than-savoury side by including unnecessary sex and violence. What detail there is, I found to be pertinent to the story.
Other characters seem to be just there to act as counsel, conscience, or guardians for Rory. They are very one-dimensional, and I found it extremely annoying that every time one particular couple were mentioned, they were eating.
After all that, I actually quite enjoyed the book. It wasn’t one I had to become invested in, but I did care what happened to Anna at the end. I hope the writer exaggerated Anna’s illness in the name of fiction, as the thought of a person in the real world having that experience is horrifying.
© 2019 Cassidy Cassandra
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.