Review: Richard Ayre – Minstrel’s Bargain

Review: Richard Ayre – Minstrel’s Bargain


Genre: Horror
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: 14th October 2016
Pages: 430




A copy of Minstrel’s Bargain was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Richard Ayre, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is self-published.

I had never heard of Richard Ayre until Confessions Publicity did a launch party a while back for someone else, and Richard very kindly donated Minstrel’s Bargain as a prize at it. We then discovered we lived just down the road from each other and had quite a lot in common in terms of interests. One of which was the subject matter for this book. Heavy metal music. Oh, and horror.

When I actually got around to reading the synopsis for this one, it sounded like a lot of fun. This is what I thought.

Phil Sturgess is a reporter for a music magazine in his home town of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the North East of England. He has only returned here a few years previously, after living in Australia. He loves his town and he loves his job.

When he is asked to attend a gig to report on a new band called Minstrel’s Bargain, he is both intrigued, and excited to see what they are like and what all the fuss is about.

At the gig, he is impressed. Very impressed. But something didn’t sit right with him. When a bunch of murders start to rock Newcastle, Sturgess starts to wonder if the band have any connection.

He soon discovers they do. The worst part is that he discovers he has become a major player in an age-old game of good versus evil. He must decide whether to stand up and be counted, or run and hide. He soon realises, he has no choice.

There are quite a few characters involved in this one. A lot of them I can’t tell you about though for spoiler reasons, so I will just stick with the main ones. Sturgess is the main man. A fella who loves life, music, cigarettes and his girl Shelley. He seems a really decent bloke and the sort I could see myself being friends with in the real world. Shelley is devoted to him in all aspects of life. His sidekick is Toby. Another one who loves his job and has a close bond with Sturgess. He seems to be the joker in the pack but loyal with it. There is another mysterious one who comes into the story and plays a huge part with Sturgess, but to mention him any more would not be good.

Then on the bad side we have the Minstrel. That’s all you are getting on him I’m afraid. He is evil to the core, but why, you just have to read about.

The plot? It’s not a simple one and one that I can’t explain in a review, again, due to spoilers. It isn’t complex to the point of being confusing. It just needs to be explained to you in the context of the story for full effect. What I can tell you though is that Sturgess has to step up to the mark and put his very soul on the line. He must learn skills he never thought possible to enter a battle with an evil that has been around for centuries.

Basically, this book is a big bunch of fun, with lots of different elements to it that make it a rollercoaster of a ride from start to finish.

Set in the 80’s it has a fantastic older feel to it. You get that feeling oozing from every page. The style of music talked about, the bands talked about, the cars, the hairstyles, everything gives you that feeling of being transported back in time to an era that was very charismatic in the world that Sturgess inhabits.

Add to that, the fact that this book is set in the town that I, myself, now call home, it gave me an added interest and brought frequent smiles to my face when things were happening in locations I know very well.

But for those of you that don’t know it, what was the writing like? I have to say that Richard Ayre has a style that I like a hell of a lot. It’s difficult to describe to you without giving away too much of the story but it is very laid back, whilst giving you a sense of dread on nearly every single page. He has this thing where he brings each chapter to an end by saying something like “he thought his toast was ready, little did he know just how wrong he was”. Now those words don’t actually appear in the book but you get what I mean? You come to the end of a chapter where you were maybe going to go and make the dinner but when you read that little line, you can’t help but turn the page and start the next. It’s gripping stuff.

It involves one of my most favourite things in a horror story. The good old good versus evil scenario. This one is not original in essence, but the use of the music as a tool for evil was certainly well used.

Do I have a negative? I do, and it’s not one I use a lot. I actually thought this story was a bit long. At just over four hundred pages, it is longer than most books that come out these days. Now I don’t mind a long book if it is filled with good stuff. This one is, it just felt at times that some bits could have been told a bit quicker and that maybe some chapters dragged a bit much. This certainly doesn’t take away from the writing and is very much one of those personal observations. The next ten people to read it may not think that at all.

So, overall, if you like horror you will like this. If you like metal music, you will like this. If you like age old evils and legends causing havoc in the modern world, you will like this.

This is one of those books I class as easy reading. It’s easy to get really involved in the story to the point where you just don’t want to put the book down. It’s an uncomplicated story that is very entertaining and a perfect introduction to the writing style of Richard Ayre.

It is a style I like a lot and I will definitely be picking up the remaining books in this series.


General rating:
☆☆☆☆ I like this style a lot.

Horror rating:
☆☆☆☆ Certainly gave me the creeps.


If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy Minstrel’s Bargain or any other books from Richard. This not only supports us but also lets us know how many people actually like to buy books after reading our reviews.



Book Synopsis:

‘A tale of horror, hell and heavy metal.’

Newcastle. 1988….

They say that music is the food of love. Reporter Phil Sturgess would disagree with this. He would argue that some music is the stuff of nightmares. Some music can literally tear out your soul and drag it, kicking and screaming, down to hell itself.

Sturgess loves rock music. He loves it so much he makes a living from it. But when he hears of a band called Minstrel’s Bargain, Sturgess’ life descends into horror. As the city he lives in succumbs to ever more violent and macabre episodes of grisly murders and barbarous acts of self-destruction, Sturgess begins to understand that there is something very wrong with Minstrel’s Bargain. Something very wrong indeed.

With time running out for humanity, Sturgess is threatened with an age-old evil. And to stop that evil he is forced to confront the terrifying stranger who has been dogging his footsteps for months. The only question is; will Sturgess do what needs to be done? If not, the souls of millions will be destroyed.

Sturgess has to make a choice. Fight or flight? Heaven or Hell? Live or die? Whatever he chooses, it will be a Devil of a decision.


Richard Ayre was born in Northumberland and now lives in Newcastle upon Tyne where he continues to write horror fiction.

It an impressionable age, he fell in love with new wave Heavy Metal and rock music and at about the same time read his first James Herbert novel.

The combination of these two magnificent things led him to write Minstrel’s Bargain, a tale of music and horror. Minstrel’s Bargain is the first novel in the Prophecy trilogy. Richard has also written Minstrel’s Renaissance, the second book in that trilogy, as well as Point of Contact, a sci-fi chiller, and the short story anthology A Hatful of Shadows.


And for more about Richard, visit his site, or find him on social media:

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