Review by Frank Plowright
Rapidly after their mother died, Mia and Stacey’s father married again. Teenage Mia hates her stepmother Suzanne with a passion, while the younger Stacey has adapted to the new situation. For Mia, Suzanne brings many unanswered questions along with the suitcase that was her only possession when she met Mr Fleming. When the couple leave for a weekend away, Mia and her friends take the opportunity to root around, discovering an address book and the suitcase full of money.
The emotional jealousies of childhood unknowingly unleash a monster from the past, in the form of brutal Estate Agent Daniel, a man who’s killed on several occasions, and now has the means to track down someone who previously escaped him.
David Lapham is in very familiar territory here, weaving the same kind of tension-fuelled crime story that made his Stray Bullets so compelling, but it lacks the twisted richness that a far longer ongoing series afforded. The contrast between teenage innocence and a lunatic who believes a demon fish lives within his ear is well drawn, and the tension is maintained throughout, but this is a straightforward tale very much drawing on horror movie tropes.
Mia is the teenage innocent, her friend Vonnie more knowing and manipulative, the setting is small town seaside USA, where all sorts of familiar entertainments take on a more sinister turn at night. The one really original element is the killer personalising his inner demons as a fish, but even that amounts to little more than passing references, although allowing Lapham to illustrate some suitably terrifying specimens.
The entire story takes place at night, and Lapham’s choice of grey shading is extremely effective in heightening the tension. It may also be an internal comment on the narrative. As a standard horror tale Silverfish works very well, but anyone familiar with Stray Bullets may be expecting more.