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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
Malbed Mews by May J Panayi opens with a tramp sleeping rough, drunk on cheap whisky. Huddling from the onslaught of a violent thunderstorm, he sees a terrible, inhuman creature, and that is the last thing he ever sees. Normality returns with Guy, a successful author, doing a DIY removal. He is the first resident of a block of luxury flats within a converted Victorian building with beautiful views over London. Nothing about the building is quite right. The air-conditioning fluctuates, and cold or rust-coloured patches appear on walls: the conversion isn’t complete and teething troubles are to be expected. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives move in but, one after another, they develop unspeakable personae.
The title of May J Panayi’s book, Malbed Mews, is the clue: Malbed is an anagram of Bedlam. It explains a box of files that prove to be psychiatric notes and a floor plan that shows the building was originally a mental hospital, which Guy finds in the roof space. Other residents arrive, but Guy is constantly drawn back to the old records. He suffers nightmares, but it is nothing compared to the nightmare that the storm awoke. A midwife, who had been doing her ordinary job and leading an ordinary life, steals a mass of bones and eyes, and pickles them in vodka. Worse is to come before the evil is banished, or does it lurk there still? Ms Panayi dips her pen in a palate of words and draws a picture as vivid as a Technicolor movie and more horrific than The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in Malbed Mews.