Tag: Fiction (Page 1 of 5)

Knock twice for “no”

The Foxes Of Hydesville

Production company – Qcode

Rating – 3 brains

Seeing as Halloween is almost upon us, it would be remiss of me to not have another spooky podcast to review. This month seems to have been taken up with more earthly concerns so far. Well that, and the slew of advance episodes for release day reviews that I’ve been inundated with. Not any more though! To round October off I have my review of The Foxes Of Hydesville.

So what’s it about?

The Foxes Of Hydesville is a rather imaginative (and loose) retelling of the story of the Fox sisters. The siblings who literally kick started the spiritualism craze in 19th century America.

The story follows the abrasive, sarcastic and foul mouthed Leah Fox as she travels to rural New York State to investigate allegations of her sisters living in “The Spook House”. Leah and her friend Adelaide rescue her now notorious sisters Maggie and Kate and flee to the city.

Once there they gain even more notoriety, mostly due to Leah’s contacts, and Maggie and Kate’s strange ability to gain information about people from the dead. 

Is it any good?

There are pros and cons with this series. The sound design is brilliant, and the more dramatic events in the first episode or two are very well done. As is the voice acting. There are no dodgy accents here, and no wooden acting either.

Nine episodes is probably the perfect length for any series, it’s enough space to develop the characters and storyline, but short enough not to pad things out and digress too much. As has been the case recently, I managed to get through the whole thing in a day.

Now for the cons.

I can see why this is so popular, but it fell somewhat flat for me. There is very little of the actual Fox sisters in this story. It seems like the whole story is an excuse for Leah Fox to swear at old men. Actually, it’s an excuse for Leah Fox to swear at anyone really. 

While her choice of language and forthright attitude may be intended as “empowering”, she just comes across as a bit of a twat. I apologise for my turn of phrase, but I can’t think of any other way to say it that would do it justice (and I did try, I promise).

Final thoughts

I’m not sure what to make of this show really. It’s not funny enough to be a comedy podcast, and while the more dramatic supernatural events are certainly cinematic, they are not truly scary.

This series just seems like a missed opportunity. The story is written from the perspective of the sisters actually having mediumistic skills (despite deathbed confessions that it was all a hoax). I wonder why then, didn’t they either tell the story like that, as a straight spooky story, or play it knowing that it was all a con. Maybe it’s just me. I’m sure that Leah would have some rather robust assessment of my intelligence and parentage.

This series gets three brains because of the quality of the cast and the sound design. It would have been a two brain show otherwise.

It would have been nice to have devoted October solely to horror podcasts. Maybe I’ll clear my schedule next year and we’ll have four spooky reviews (or five, depending on how the Sundays land).

You can get Foxes Of Hydesville here:


Welcome back, old friend

The Haunter Of The Dark review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

As you may already be aware, I have reviewed The Lovecraft Investigations previously, but I was so excited when series 4 dropped that I’ve decided to give this one a standalone review too. So without further ado, here we go.

Before I start though, spoilers are unavoidable due to the fact it’s a review of series 4, and the story continues on from series 3. I heartily recommend you go back and listen to the previous three series before listening to The Haunter Of The Dark, and even before reading this review. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

So what’s it about

This series takes place nearly three years after the disappearance of Matt Heywood. Kennedy has been travelling the world trying to find his whereabouts, but to no avail. Just when she thinks all hope is lost, she is contacted by the mysterious Marcus Byron.

Soon enough, Kennedy is back on the trail of mysterious cults and ancient deities. New allies and old friends work together to try and uncover the truth of The Haunter Of The Dark.

Once again, you don’t really need any knowledge of the source material. You don’t even need to like H.P. Lovecraft to enjoy this series. The story has been updated and adapted to the modern day, and the darkness is offset nicely with humour. This isn’t a comedy show by any means though. The overall mood is one of darkness and paranoia, and it’s amazing.

Is it any good?

Of course it is! The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward was one of the first podcasts I listened to, and therefore this series will always hold a special place in my heart. Thankfully this affection isn’t misplaced, because the series has been consistently brilliant, and this chapter of Kennedy and Matt’s investigations is no different.

Once again, the weaving of historical fact and fictional characters is so seamless you can’t see the joins. This is something that Julian does very well indeed, and just like in previous series, I may (or may not) have googled someone only to find they don’t exist. 

To be honest, I would never have guessed that this was the direction the story would go, not that it’s a bad thing, although my keen hearing did spot hints to where I was expecting the cast to find themselves in this series. I’m not telling you lot though, just in case it does go there at some point.

Final thoughts

I’m well aware that social media every so often exhumes the rumours of Guillermo Del Toro directing At The Mountains Of Madness, but I really can’t see that happening. For my money, the legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction is more than safe in the hands of Julian Simpson. And thanks to the introduction of a character at the end of the final episode, I think I know where the story is going next (although I said that last time didn’t I?).

You can get The Haunter Of The Dark here:


Holy let-downs Batman!

The Riddler: Secrets In The Dark review

Production Company – Warner Bros. / Spotify Studios

Rating –

Back when I first started this blog (possibly even my first post), I said I would never review a podcast that was exclusive to a subscription service. I didn’t think it was fair because believe it or not, not everyone has Audible or Spotify (me included), and I didn’t want to leave anyone out.

So why am I reviewing a Spotify exclusive podcast you may ask? Well, it is something of an experiment. This is a brand new show, and the subject matter will no doubt see it climb the charts, so I took the challenge from GreatPods to listen to some charting podcasts alongside independent shows that people need to hear. I’m also a massive fan of DC Comics and Batman in particular. Enough of this nonsense though, on with the review!

So what’s it about?

Secrets In The Dark kicks off in Arkham Asylum. Edward Nygma aka The Riddler reviews a mysterious letter from Julian Day aka Calendar Man. Julian is in fear of his life, and he believes that Batman is after him. He has been seeing shadowy figures in the dark and he knows his days are numbered.

When Julian’s fears prove to be true and he winds up dead, apparently murdered in a rather tell-tale fashion, The Riddler seeks to escape from Arkham to solve the killing. What he uncovers is something much deadlier than he imagined. As the death toll rises, he finds himself teamed up with Batman to catch the murderer before his time runs out.

Is it any good?

You can tell this has a rather large budget. The music and sound design is great, and the voice acting is very good indeed, despite the scenery chewing in parts. Whether intentionally or not this really reminds me of the radio dramas of the 30’s and 40’s. Apart from the bad language.

Here’s where I will probably alienate a lot of you reading this. I really didn’t like it much, I can’t explain why. I listened to the entire series in one go and was left feeling unsatisfied.

My kids have started using the term “NPC” now for people who are a bit weird or who do strange things*. This is probably the best way to describe any of the characters in this podcast, apart from The Riddler himself. There was no real depth to any of the characters and it felt like they were only there to advance the plot, or die. This might seem a rather obvious thing to say, but they were noticeably shallow.

I think I’m a bit fussy with the caped crusader, and all the costumed cackling psychopaths that seek to rule Gotham City. The last decent Joker was Jack Nicholson (although Cesar Romero was the GOAT), and I can really take or leave Killer Croc et al. There is an element to this story that seems like some characters are getting mentioned just for the sake of it. They only appear to get killed off, and I can’t really see the point of that. Maybe I should have listened to Batman Unburied first, to see if it made more sense.

Final thoughts

This show has done nothing to make me like the character of The Riddler any more. He’s still an irritating nerd that acts like a petulant child. Although I do like the idea of casting him as an Indian computer hacker. 

As I was listening, I kept having the feeling that I really should be enjoying it. Rather like eating salad. And rather like eating salad, what should be zingy and flavourful and interesting, is really just a mouthful of leaves. That’s what this show is like. This was the biggest let down. It’s BATMAN for god’s sake.

If there’s one thing that has come out of this, is that I’ve started reading my batman comics again, if only to remind myself of how good DC can do it.

You can get The Riddler: Secrets In The Dark here:


*For those of you who don’t know, NPC stands for Non Player Character. A term first used in the role playing games of the 70s and 80s, but in this case more related to the people who fill out the computer generated worlds of Grand Theft Auto and The Elder Scrolls.

Never did me any harm

Scarred For Life review

Rating –

Something that I am eternally grateful for is growing up in the 80s. We had the best music, the best kids movies and the best kids TV. We could spend all day out and… yes. Ok. I know. I’ll shut up. You get the idea though.

We were also the last generation where adults didn’t pussyfoot around us. We had films and TV shows that would never be shown to kids now, as well as some truly chilling public information films. As such we were well aware that motorists wouldn’t try to avoid us if we ran across the road, or that we’d get snagged on some underwater junk if we swam in the old flooded quarry. Oh yeah, and “Protect And Survive”.

So what’s it about?

Well, I mean, it’s about all the above really. This show is a homage to all the things that made us Gen Xers a hardy bunch, and the darker influences of the current Hauntological movement. The main focus is on TV, all of those square eyed kids (me included) grew up watching stuff they weren’t supposed to. Although the stuff we were supposed to watch was also pretty weird and scary. I can’t imagine a primary school nowadays showing a class of 8 year olds the film Watership Down for example, but I remember more than one child leaving the room in tears when it was played to us.

Each episode, the hosts Andy Bush, Stephen Brotherstone and Dave Lawrence interview a different celebrity. They are encouraged to bring in three “scars” and discuss just why these things were so scary. What I found surprising here was the number of title sequences to TV programs being mentioned. I can relate to that. One of the earliest things I remember scaring me was the intro to Tales Of The Unexpected.

Episode one (actually episode two. The first episode is the hosts discussing their “scars”) sees a great interview with Jamie Anderson, son of Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson, and a writer and director in his own right. Episode two sees the guys interview actor, writer, and filmmaker Andy Nyman. His film Ghost Story (based on a stage show fo the same name) definitely has the feel of a much older style, and is one of the scariest modern horror films (and one of Paul Whitehouse’s best acting roles).

Is it any good?

If you are of a certain age then you will no doubt grow all misty eyed (and slightly wary) at the discussions of Mr. Noseybonk, Candy and Andy et al. A few years ago I showed a picture of Mr. Noseybonk to my kids and he still has the power to terrify kids, even now.

If you were born after 1990 (or heaven forbid 2000) you will listen with equal parts horror and disbelief. But as a preemptive answer to you young pups, yes we did watch/listen to/read this stuff. Yes we did do this stuff, and yes, this is what passed for entertainment.

The interviews are funny and very entertaining, and also the reason for my current YouTube search history. Thanks to Mr. Nyman, I’m currently working my way through the Thriller TV series

Final thoughts

I’ve been a fan of the SFL Facebook page for a very long time now. When I heard they were releasing a podcast I eagerly awaited episode 1. You may think me somewhat premature by posting this review when there are only three episodes released, but then my review of The Estate only covered two episodes so it’s not entirely unheard of.

The guys at SFL have also released a series of books. I think I know what I’ll be asking Father Christmas for this year!

This review is also my 100th blog post! I didn’t think I’d get this far, and I can’t think of a more worthy review for my centenary. Here’s to another 100.

You can get Scarred For Life here:


Keep to the path

The Dark Is Rising review

Production company – BBC World Service

Rating –

As I was listening to this series, it reminded me of the fantasy stories that were popular when I was growing up (and that I didn’t like). I tended to only learn about them when they got dramatised on Children’s BBC, usually at Christmas. As I was reading up on the original story to research this review, it turns out that it is indeed based on a classic children’s fantasy book series. I’m still not reading them though!

So what’s it about?

The story follows the adventures of Will Stanton. It is the day before his 11th birthday, Midwinter Eve, and strange things are afoot. Mysterious lurkers, nervous animals and cryptic warnings lay the groundwork for a truly bizarre adventure.

Meanwhile, across the world in Jamaica, Will’s brother receives a gift from a stranger. With the instructions that this gift is for Will, the stranger seems to know an awful lot about the family, and Will in particular.

So what is in store for young Will? Well, I’m obviously not going to tell you, am I? I’m not into spoilers as you well know, so you’ll have to subscribe and find out for yourselves.

Is it any good?

The cast, for the most part, is very good. The inclusion of Toby Jones in anything is usually a seal of approval. He is joined by Harriet Walter, Paul Rhys and Thomas Arnold. The actual cast is rather small with many of the actors playing multiple roles. I suspect that this is more to do with the central plot device than something like budget limitations.

Adapted for audio, directed and narrated by the brilliant Simon McBurney, someone who is fresh in my mind after playing the deliciously creepy protagonist in the TV drama Hijack. He has one of those distinctive voices that I immediately recognised.

I suspect this would appeal to the mid 40s folk horror fan. Whilst I would describe myself as that, I was never really into the Alan Garner “Low Fantasy” type stories.

Final thoughts

It is when I have to write reviews like this i realise what a contrarian I am. I can’t explain it. I said I’m not really into these type of stories, but I did really like the TV adaptations of Moondial and The Children Of Green Knowe when I was young, so maybe it’s more that I have come to this story too late. Who knows?

I suspect that it is to my detriment that I avoided stories like these as a child. Honestly, I was reading rather more full on horror than this style of child-centric folk mystery that I think is almost exclusively British. I reckon if I had read those type of stories, I would have loved this.

As I have said in previous reviews, this is just my opinion, and if my synopsis appeals to you, then absolutely check this out. There is, after all, much to enjoy here. It’s just not to my personal taste.

You can get The Dark Is Rising here:


Some general housekeeping

some general housekeeping

The Pantaloon Society

Rating –

The Exorcist Files

Rating –

Tales Of The Echowood

Rating –

This is a bit of a different post this week. As I write this I have 72 unfinished podcasts, with 538 downloaded episodes! I thought my phone felt heavy. Some of these podcasts have already been reviewed, some have reviews half written, languishing in my Google docs folder blinking at the light as I start yet another queue jumper review. Some however will never get a full post review. Usually this is because I don’t like them enough to dedicate my time going through all the episodes. So in the interests of doing some general housekeeping, I’m writing this with an aim to clear these shows from my podcast lists.

This post therefore is a way to kill multiple birds with one stone. I’ll give each series a paragraph or so of a review and you can be free to check them out if you wish and comment on how I don’t know what I’m talking about. In the interest of fairness, I will listen to 10 episodes of each. I have usually made up my mind after one or two, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. As such, this post will probably be longer than a regular review, but that can’t be helped. So without further ado, let’s take a dive into the less favoured series’ in my podcatcher.

So what are they about?

the pantaloon society logo

The Pantaloon Society is an ersatz Rivers Of London but with clowns rather than the police force. This is not as entertaining as it sounds unfortunately. The writing in parts had a similar “psychogeography” style in the vein of Alan Moore or Peter Ackroyd, although this seems to be a style that was as quickly discarded as it was adopted. The series is narrated “The Racontereuse”, who tells the story of Jen, a clown who works inthe childrens ward of a hospital. After some strange events, she is approached to join the titular “Pantaloon Society”.

the exorcist files logo

The Exorcist Files dramatises the casebook of Father Carlos Martins. This is the podcast equivalent of those late night shows on Really. Most people here invite dark forces into their lives by accident or design. Don’t worry though, because the church is there to rush in and save the day. It’s also on hand to sternly wag a finger at any behaviour it considers unacceptable.

tales of the echowood logo

Tales Of The Echowood is a fantasy series following an as yet unnamed person (you, I guess) who walks through an ancient archway in a forest and finds an old inn owned by a fairy, or faerie as I reckon they’d prefer I spelled it. The question is whether a mute trespasser from the real world is able to save the Echowood before it’s too late.

Why don’t I like them?

The Pantaloon Society is a tough call for me to include here. The ingredients are all there for a 5 brain series that would have me recommending it to everyone. Just like all you need to make a cup of tea is tea, water, milk and sugar (if you like it like that), it amazes me that some people make the most awful concoctions with those four items. In a similar manner, The Pantaloon Society misses the mark, and leaves me wanting.

The Exorcist Files is possibly the biggest let down of the lot. I was hoping for something interesting, or at least spooky. What you end up with is something that is neither. It seems that demons are everywhere and they are just waiting for a chance to possess our fragile, fallible bodies. Apropos of nothing, I also find it irritating when people pronounce Ouija boards as “weejee”. Especially people who should know better. Catholic exorcists for example.

Tales Of The Echowood has nothing essentially wrong with it. The production values are high, and the music is epic in the manner of The Elder Scrolls soundtrack. I think my problem with it is that stories like this make me cringe. I had a feeling I wouldn’t like it before I even pressed play. As episode one started, I found my fears coming true. My first impression is that this is like season one of 13 Days Of Halloween, but for middle aged hippies who wear tie dye. 

Final thoughts

Originally this was going to be a one off post, where I would get through a few shows with one fell swoop. Unfortunately, this is going to be a two parter, maybe even three.

Part of me regrets setting the “ten episode” threshold, because some of these were very hard going indeed. I’m always pleased to be proved wrong though. I can be hasty in my judgement sometimes and I really want to enjoy every podcast I listen to.

Ultimately, there is nothing here that you can’t find better versions of elsewhere.

If strange, surreal, paranormal comedy is your thing then give Two Flat Earthers Kidnap A Freemason a go. If you don’t mind swearing then also try A Scottish Podcast. Wormwood is also a shoo in here too.

If creepy, true stories of the paranormal is your bag then give Radio Rental, or any of Danny Robins’ podcasts a go (Haunted, Uncanny, The Battersea Poltergeist, and The Witch Farm)

If fantastical stories with a modern twist is what whets your appetite, then give The Silt Verses, Bridgewater or The Magnus Archives a spin. 

You can get the podcasts here:

The Pantaloon Society

The Exorcist Files

Tales Of The Echowood

Stranger in a strange land

Re: Dracula review

Rating –

Re:Dracula logo

Back to regular programming this week folks. I’ve had loads of stuff going on outside the podcastverse, but now I’ve got the time to enjoy listening to shows without deadlines and embargoes to worry about (I do quite like deadlines and embargoes though)!

So what’s under the microscope this week? Well dear readers, we are dealing with a classic here. A classic in more ways than one. Read on and discover why this is almost the perfect podcast for this here podcastgeek.

So what’s it about?

Re:Dracula is an interesting take on the classic Bram Stoker story. I say “interesting take”, its more fathful than any of the other versions out there. It’s told in “real time” as entries in Jonathan Harker’s diary. Therefore the episodes vary in length, and they are released on the relevant days. Thrown into this are also reports by Doctor Seward as Renfield grows ever more agitated, and the correspondence between Mina and Lucy. Their innocent gossip in particular providing a contrast to the darkness of the events around the male protagonists.

I can’t really expand on it more than that. Everybody knows the story so this section is understandably short

Is it any good?

I really like most of it. The story is great, it’s told in an interesting way, and the acting is top notch (more on that in a bit). I’m not too fussed on the interviews with people scattered throughout. I appreiate why they did it this way, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but they don’t interest me, so I tend to skip those episodes. It may have been a better option to have those as bonus episodes after the story has finished, as they have done with Scamanda.

I have also heard that some people aren’t really keen on the shorter episodes. Some are under ten minutes long. I could understand this if you are listening along in real time as well, but due to my other commitments, I just binged the whole lot, and to be honest I didn’t really notice that. So I guess you can do things properly , listen in real time and maybe get frustrated, or ignore all the hard work that the producers went to and plough through it all in huge chunks. It’s up to you.

Now, on to the voice talent. In my opening paragraphs, I mentioned that this may be the perfect podcast for me. The reason for that is the cast. The keen eared among you will recognize Jonathan Sims from The Magnus Archives, Graham Rowat who I have waxed lyrical about in various reviews before, and Karim Kronfli as Dracula. I immediately recognized Karim’s voice as gangster Bruce from A Scottish Podcast, a show you’ll remember my fondness for. Looking at his IMDB page, he’s been in so many classic podcasts I’m sure you’ll know him from elsewhere.

In fact, the only person missing from this cast is David Ault. If he shows up I would probably get all giddy and giggly when it’s on.

Final thoughts

Even if you know the story inside out (I mean, who doesn’t know the story of Dracula) I would recommend this. It’s such a great production (possibly the best thing Pacific S. Obadiah has done). Don’t get me wrong, I loved SCP Archives and The Sheridan Tapes, but this is next level stuff here.

If this is the shape of things to come from him, then we are all in for a treat indeed.

You can get Re:Dracula here:


You may remember that this line here usually says “or wherever you get your podcasts”. I put that in originally as a little fun quote to mirror what all podcasts say when they are advertising. I thought it was cute. However, Imran over at GreatPods told me about a site that provides links to every major podcatcher. So from now on, I’ll just post the new link and you can sort yourselves out. It’ll probably take me a few posts to get out of the habit though!

(un)Happy Shopper

Siege review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Siege logo

Another short story from the Limelight series on BBC Radio 4, that brought you the previously reviewed podcasts The System, The House the Vanished, Who Is Aldridge Kemp, Firewall and others. From that list, you can see that this series has some big shoes to fill.

Will this series be on a par with Aldrich Kemp, or will it leave me unsatisfied like The House That Vanished? I’m not going to tell you this early on am I? You’ll have to read to the end to find that out.

So what’s it about?

Siege is an interesting take on a hostage drama, told from the perspective of interviews with the hostages themselves after the event. Actually, the term interview isn’t entirely accurate. There are no questions here, just the hostages giving their accounts of what happened, answering unheard questions. This is quite a good idea in practice.

Over the course of 5 episodes, you are on a gripping ride of what should have been a day just like any other, but one that went awry very quickly. What starts as a robbery at a supermarket, becomes a hostage situation after the security shutters fall, and the shoppers are left trapped with the armed robber.

Where the writing really shines is when the same event is told from multiple perspectives. For example, right at the beginning of the siege, the schoolgirl Naomi puts her headphones in and listens to music, quietly singing along. “Aunty” Kemi is busy praying, sees Naomi and thinks she’s praying too, and is even speaking in tongues. This opens the way for the two of them to connect with each other without actually understanding each other completely.

One of the points of the story is that a disparate group of people get stuck together and their prejudices and misunderstanding get put to one side, although the interviews give an insight into their real feelings about the various events of the story.

As the interviews continue, certain masks start to slip and you realise that people’s lives are never as perfect as they’d like you to think at first. Penny’s story is particularly well written, and well acted.

Is it any good?

This is a masterclass in how to make a gripping series with very limited resources. There’s no over the top sound effects, or big musical scores. Just five brilliant voice actors telling a story for the most part (towards the end of the series, a new character, Derek the security guard gets to tell his story).

In fact, the only thing I didn’t really like was the glitchy music that got played between each “scene”. It was jarring and unnecessary, in my opinion at least. As I write this though, I wonder if there was some meaning that I’ve missed for it, although I have gone through the whole thing twice. Maybe I’m not paying as much attention as I should be!

Final thoughts

This series is well worth your time. You can easily get through it in a day should you wish. The story is very well written, and brilliantly acted. It’s a refreshing take on a crime drama, even with the obligatory twist at the end.

You may find the characters somewhat “tropey”, and they are. I don’t think you can really escape that in a drama such as this though. The story demands it. They are so well portrayed though, that it’s easy to overlook this.

You can get Siege here:


Or wherever you get your podcasts 

Variations on a Themis

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? review

Production company – BBC

Rating –

Who Is Aldrich Kemp logo

Well folks, it’s been a weird few weeks with all these big release day reviews hasn’t it? Now my release schedule seems to be back to the usual Sunday mornings again, you can enjoy your morning coffee (or tea), and wonder just what the hell I’ll be banging on about today.

Ploughing through the Limelight series of audio dramas by the BBC is something of a mixed bag. You have the excellent, and the not so. So how does Who Is Aldrich Kemp hold up? Well dear reader, you will find out the answer to that very question in the next 600 or so words.

So what’s it about?

Who Is Aldrich Kemp? is a rip-roaring, grab-bag (and possible other hyphenated hyperbole, oooh, alliteration) of shadowy organisations, criminal masterminds, and wise cracking secret agents. A fair dose of Double crosses, unlikely assassins, and plots for global domination get thrown in for good measure.

Clara Page works as an analyst for a government agency that would rather remain off the radar. When the body of a French secret agent gets hauled out of the water in Lake Tanganyika, connections are found to an even shadier group of scoundrels called the Themis Group. The leader of this organisation is a mysterious individual known as Aldrich Kemp.

With nothing more than a name and a (literally) blank piece of paper, Clara soon finds herself on a mad dash across Europe dodging assassins and digging up secret societies. Along the way she will find friends that are enemies, and enemies that are friends.

Is it any good?

I like this more than I thought I would. I bounced between irritation at some of the dialogue (and accents) to a great fondness for the characters and their oddball ways. It’s an interesting take on the espionage genre explored in other podcast dramas, including the previously reviewed Splinter Cell: Firewall. In fact, while that was all American gung-ho action and gadgets, this is far more British in feel. I mean, because it is British.

Aldrich Kemp as a character is more Doctor Who than Blofeld, his puppy like eagerness and sense of humour set him apart from the more traditional crime bosses in fiction. This comes as something of a surprise, as his reputation precedes him in this series, but it’s a nice touch that adds to the whole offbeat feel of the story.

Plucky protagonist Clara Page, has a penchant for fencing (the sport, not DIY) and fish and chips. As the main character, her worldview suffers the biggest change. I’ll say no more than that, but for an already strong (if not somewhat cliched) female character, she really does get the short end of the stick. How will she fair in this? Well, again, I’m not telling you.

Podcaster Kennedy Fisher also makes an appearance too, a name you’ll no doubt remember from The Lovecraft Investigations. It was really nice to see that the character is keeping herself busy, still on the trail of tracking her partner Matt down (even if it is only in podcastland). I think I’ll probably go back and listen to the final series of that, just to see how much leaks through into this show.

Regarding Kennedy Fisher, it blew my mind that the same actress voiced three characters in this series. I honestly thought she was American, so either she’s got her American accent absolutely dialed, or she’s got her British accent absolutely dialed.  There’s no slipping evident, or weird pronunciations as is so often the case with voice actors.

Final thoughts

The problem with shows like this (for a reviewer anyway), is that the story is so cunning and twisty that it’s very hard to talk about it without giving anything away. That is my way of apologising for my rather superficial review. I just don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Looking through the list of dramas in the Limelight series, I see there is a second series featuring Mr Kemp. Therefore, this has jumped very high up my “to listen to” list. I would have listened to it already were it not for the offer of advanced episodes of new series’ to review.

Julian Simpson is quickly becoming one of my favourite writers. I was just scrolling through his Wikipedia page and I see there’s a whole load of audio dramas set in the “Pleasant Green” universe (including this and the Lovecraft Investigations). Looks like I’ve got a lot of listening to do, should I actually be able to track them down. They seem to all be unavailable everywhere. So dear readers, if you know where I can get them, please comment below and accept my gratitude in advance.

You can get Who Is Aldrich Kemp? here:


Or wherever you get your podcasts.

Keeping me in the loop


The Lesser Dead review

Production company – Echoverse

Rating –

The Lesser Dead logo

I know, another weird day for a post. I couldn’t pass on another opportunity for an early listen of a new podcast though (despite my misgivings). So here we are. It’s a Friday and you’ve just noticed the little icon on your browser, or had your phone make a noise. Maybe you forgot it was Friday, and thought it was Sunday. Maybe not.

I mentioned I had misgivings with this show, and that’s because it’s about vampires. I’m sorry, but vampires make me cringe. They aren’t scary (not since Max Schreck anyway), and the current penchant for sparkly, emo, monobrowed heartthrobs (or was that the werewolf?) grinds my gears. But here we are. I’m reviewing a podcast about vampires. So is it any good? Well read on and I’ll tell you.

So what’s it about?

The Lesser Dead is set in 1978, a year dear to my heart. You see, that was the year I left the warm sanctuary of my mother’s womb and arrived kicking, screaming, and hairy into this cruel world. It’s also set in New York. This is not dear to my heart, seeing as I’ve never been there, but I digress.

Joseph “Joey” Peacock is a 19 year old vampire. As part of the community of vampires called The Family, living in “The Loops”, an area of unlit tunnels off the main subway. He gets tasked somewhat reluctantly by Margaret, The Mayor of The Loops, to find someone who has been “peeling” people (vampire slang for killing victims). You may think that vampires are supposed to kill people. In this universe, they use people more like drink dispensers. I guess there’s less hassle if you keep your victims alive.

As Joseph and his friends start searching for the killer, he also discovers that someone has been turning children into vampires, an unspoken rule that should never be broken (Vampire children are always creepy). So with his friends, he sets off to uncover just who is doing these unspeakable things.

Is it any good?

Surprisingly, yes. I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. There is none of the usual clichés that are so beloved of this particular branch of horror recently. 

Jack Kilmer as Joseph is somewhere between a young Henry Hill in Goodfellas, and Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale in Catch Me If You Can. He has that youthful charm and exuberance that verges on being cocky, yet stays just the right side of annoying. You know that every word that comes out of his mouth is delivered with a smirk.

Minnie Driver as Margaret is also well played, and a perfect “Yang” to Joseph’s “Yin”. Her no bullshit, foul mouthed Irish firebrand attitude seems like quite the departure from her usual oeuvre (not that I’m really up on her body of work). But she rules The Family with an iron fist, or to be pedantic, an iron spade. She is all too aware of the trouble that this rogue “peeler” will bring to The Family, so is keen to end this mess and return to anonymity asap.

The supporting characters are very good too, from the older and wiser Cvetko played by Saul Rubinek, to Margaret’s spooky henchmen Oldboy and Ruth. Mysterious kingpin The Hessian, played by Danny Huston is also a good brooding presence in the few episodes he appears in.

I can’t really pick holes in this series at all. The acting is top notch, the sound design is great, and the story is brilliantly written and engaging. And not to go too far along and spoil anything, but the series ends EXACTLY how I like.

I love the music too, from the weird reimagining of “Rapture” by Blondie at the end of episode 1, to the timeless Disco Inferno by The Trammps in Studio 54. There’s also a melody that reminds me of Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in parts that adds to the dreamy atmosphere of the vampire’s night world. I’m surprised though, that there is so little music in the series. For it to be set in New York in 1978, disco and punk at their height, and the birth of hip hop, I feel that there could have been a bit more made of this without detracting from the scene setting.

Final thoughts

If you’re a fan of modern vampire fiction then you’ll absolutely love this. Vampire stories tend to be very trope led, which is why I don’t like them, however this is a nice change. It’s part gangland thriller, and part murder mystery. Even if you are somewhat cynical of the genre, then I’d still encourage you to give it a go. It really is a brilliant show.

Has this changed my opinion on vampire stories? No, not really. Although it has made me think about not being quite so judgemental about new podcasts, so there is that. I was going to give it a four out of five rating, just because of the vampire aspect, but I can’t. It’s a five brain podcast all day (or rather, all night) long, and one of my favourite fiction podcasts of the last 12 months. I never thought I’d say that.

Again, thank you to GreatPods and Echoverse for giving me the opportunity to get the whole lot in advance for this review. I really do feel like a professional blogger now! (You were right Imran!)

You can get The Lesser Dead here:


Or wherever you get your podcasts.

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