{Book Review} The Vine That Ate The Starlet: Madeleine Swann

The Vine That Ate The Starlet: Madeleine Swann

Reviewed By Tarn Richardson

The Vine That Ate The Starlet is refreshing, inventive and intelligently written science fiction novel, which imagines John Wyndham in the 1920s.

It’s the swinging ‘20s, New York’s club and cabaret nights are in full flow, as are the insidious vines, monstrous flesh-eating plants as high as buildings, which have sprung up all across New York and whose tendrils snare and devour anyone careless enough to stumble across them.

Dolly is a wannabe actress come dancer, caught up within the shady world of club owners, agents, pimps and gangsters, all offering a pretty young thing the world, in exchange for payback. When fellow starlet Clara’s remains are found, partially consumed by the vines, so follows a murder mystery, as Dolly begins her search for the truth.

It’s a simple premise and, in less experienced and adroit hands, The Vine That Ate the Starlet could have felt a little underwhelming. However, Swann has a wonderful sensitivity with her writing, the ability to write snappy authentic dialogue and an obvious understanding of the 1920s which makes the prose sing off the page as sweetly as the dancing girls featured within.

Whilst the vines are critical to the world Swann has built and the plot too, she’s been clever in only showing this hellish infestation briefly and occasionally to the reader. As a result, their existence is revealed to be an irritation and annoyance to a weary down-trodden population, rather than one which directly shapes or affects people’s lives. This gives the vines an authenticity, (‘Hey, shit happens in this city and you either put up or shut up’) and makes for an excellent analogy to anyone hoping to make it in show business (‘Watch where you step or you’ll just become another casualty, girl.’)

With the writing trimmed back to an absolute necessity, The Vine is a sharp and spiky read, beautifully packaged, that you can devour within two or three hours, about the same time a vine will consume you.

It’s a focused story, and whilst some readers might finish it wanting more, (surely a good thing, no?), I thought it splendidly to the point and honed. Swann is clearly a talented and intelligent writer and I look forward to discovering more of her work.

The Vine That Ate The Starlet

In New York, 1923, Dolly is a gossip columnist in a world overrun by man-eating plants.

She lives a life of glitz, glamor, and blackmail. That is until she finds a guest at a party dead – half-eaten by the deadly Vines. The girl’s death leads her into a conspiracy of doomed starlets, shady PR Agencies, and an overzealous Immigration Bureau.

You can buy The Vine That Ate The Starley from Filthy Loot

Tarn Richardson

Tarn Richardson was brought up a fan of fantasy and horror, in a remote house, rumoured to be haunted, near Taunton, Somerset. He is the author of THE DARKEST HAND series, published by Duckworth Overlook in 2015-2017 and republished by RedDoor in 2019. Comprising of THE DAMNED, THE FALLEN, THE RISEN, and free eBook prequel THE HUNTED, the books tell the epic story of Inquisitor Poldek Tacit, battling the forces of evil to the backdrop of World War One. He has also written the novels, RIPPED, and THE VILLAGE IN THE WOODS, to be published in 2020 and 2021. He lives near Salisbury with this wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson, and their two sons.

Twitter @tarnrichardson/

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Official Website www.tarnrichardson.co.uk

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