book review, horror, Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale Month: The Tunnel

When she is 11, Georgina Jones discovers something about her cold, calculating father that not only destroys her relationship with him, but results in her keeping men at a distance when she grows up, unable to form a meaningful connection. 

In 2019, a huge crocodile stalks the sewers of London. Some say it is Jack the Ripper reborn in reptilian form. When it comes after Georgie, she realizes she is the only one who can stop it. 

This is perhaps the most straight forward of Sale’s books, but it is still rich in the symbolism that makes his work so layered and satisfying. 

At its heart, this is the story of Georgina and her personal struggles. She can’t let go of the past, despite how much it’s damaging her. Forgiveness and acceptance are a large part of her journey, as she must come to terms with the complexity of the flawed nature of humanity. 

While Jack the crocodile fits nicely as the dragon Georgie must slay, and primarily is the personification of her demons, Sale also tantalizingly hints at the crocodile – much like his namesake – being birthed from the collected corruption and aggression of the city. 

It is at these moments that I loved The Tunnel, and I wish Sale had pushed these themes further. Unfortunately, as it stands, this book falls between two stools for me. Georgie’s relationship with her father, and its resulting psychological scars, are not explored deeply enough, and the crocodile is not plausible enough in physical and biological reality (apart from the obvious, the way Jack mutilates his victims is impossible given the nature of a crocodile’s blunt teeth) to make the tale satisfying as a thriller. 

However, the symbolism of the titular tunnel, the hints at conspiracy theories, the play on prostitution, and the crocodile’s otherworldliness are not pushed far enough into gonzo territory to make the novel work as a thematic creature feature. 

Despite not being my favorite of Sale’s work, it is extremely well written and it kept me engrossed from the moment I picked it up. It’s an entertaining read. 

I award The Tunnel

This review was originally published on 29th June 2021

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