Let the Bodies Pile

Henry Naylor
Gilded Balloon and Henry Naylor
Gilded Balloon Teviot

Let The Bodies Pile

The cruel indifference to suffering of Boris Johnson’s alleged remark that he would “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” rather than have a further lockdown is remembered bitterly by many of the relatives of those who it is widely believed were killed by the callous and stupid decision during the COVID period to discharge vast numbers of untested hospital patients directly into care homes.

Relatives were horrified, prevented from seeing their relatives and, like many care workers, frustrated by the seemingly impossible task of doing anything about the situation, though I’m sure some tried.

There is a touch of Alfred Hitchcock in Henry Naylor’s provocative and powerful thriller Let The Bodies Pile, which links two horrific episodes of mass killing by a central character’s traumatised observation of events that seem out of their control. (Recall for instance, Hitchcock’s Rear Window, in which a wheelchair-bound photographer is unable to intervene as he watches a terrible sequence taking place across from his window.)

In the short first half, a woman (Emily Carding) argues with her brother Frank (Henry Naylor) about their mother’s suspicious death, which she blames on Dr Shipman, the last person to see her alive. Frank resists the funeral arrangements being delayed for an autopsy.

Decades later, in the longer second half, we find Frank himself in a care home suffering from a form of mutism brought on by a trauma-induced stroke triggered by the revelation that Shipman was a mass murderer who probably killed his mother.

His room is a sort of quiet sanctuary in which the care worker (Emily Carding) can sit to avoid difficult or dangerous tasks. As untested patients arrive at the home, she also becomes conscious that there are systematic ways in which existing residents are being put dangerously at risk. Then, in what she suspects is a dream, she hears a voice say the word “murderer”.

The killers were Shipman and a heartless government responding to COVID. But the havoc they wreaked did not end at the pile of dead bodies. It must also include the traumatised victims, such as those who believe they were suffering from another virus, “the pandemic of indifference that kills empathy in us all.”

They are also victims, who feel they failed to do anything useful when a terrible thing happened.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna

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