Enchanted and Spellbound, In the Silence they Lingered

wylding hall

 

This book had already ticked off so many boxes for me before I’d even opened it: Crumbling and isolated English manor, 1970s acid folk band, possible Wicker Man-like pagan horror. I was intrigued before I even started the book. This short novella by Elizabeth Hand slowly amps up the weirdness and dread and, though it leaves the reader with more questions than answers, it’s a deeply satisfying ending.

The book follows the the story of fictional folk band <i>Windhollow Faire</i> a small folk band who are sent to the titular country manor to record their next album. Though the album will be their greatest work as a group, the lead singer, Julian Blake, disappears in the course of recording it. The book is told in a documentary style as the former band members and associates gather together and recall the events at Wylding Hall that led to Blake’s disappearance. It is broken up into small vignettes as we see some incidents from varying perspectives. The elements that add to the feeling of unease are familiar but no less unsettling. The dimensions of the manor seem somewhat fluid (though it’s nowhere near House of Leaves territory). The townsfolk are standoffish and seem to cling to weird old pagan traditions. And Julian Blake himself has a fascination with the occult. These, and several other elements culminate in the vanishing of Mr. Blake.

I loved this book so much! I literally found myself sneaking off to read just a little bit more on the Kindle app on my phone. The feel of this book invoked the kind of general unease you get while watching old 70s occult movies. Things just seem a little skewed in a way you can’t always put your finger on. If you’re looking to dip your toe into the Folk Horror sub genre, this book is a great recommendation at less than 200 pages.

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Lost in a parallel existence. Lost in a nightmare I retrace

THE LIKENESS

 

I read Tana French’s first first novel in the Dublin Murder Squad series, In the Woods a little over a year ago and immediately fell in love with her writing style. In the Woods was the dark, complex and gritty murder mystery that filled the season one True Detective sized hole in my heart. The Likeness has cemented my love for Ms. French and this mystery series. This second book hits many of the same notes that made the first one so great without being repetitive.

The Likeness begins picks up about six months after the events of In the Woods have concluded. The protagonist, Cassandra Maddox is the former partner of Rob Ryan who was the protagonist of the first book. Despite these close ties, it is not necessary to have read In the Woods to follow along with The Likeness, though I would highly recommend it. Detective Maddox has transferred out of Murder Squad and into Domestic Violence. However she is called to a murder scene to find that the victim is not only her doppelganger, but that she has been identified as “Lexie Madison” an identity that Detective Maddox used when she was working Undercover. Her former boss from Undercover convinces her to move in with “Lexie’s” flatmates and pose as her in order to help catch the killer.

Tana French’s ability to put you inside the main character’s head is phenomenal. Often I would catch myself missing the same things Cassie would miss because I was looking at everything through her eyes with all the baggage from her past that colored it. The conclusion of this book (like its predecessor) was an emotional gut punch. In addition, French makes Dublin and the small village where the main action takes place into secondary characters. The conflict between history and modern life weigh heavily over the events of the story. I can’t recommend this book, or any of the other books in the series enough to anyone who loves a mystery with some serious meat on its bones. Yes, I just recommended books I haven’t read yet. FIGHT ME!