This is a first class example of just how to write an intelligent and gripping horror novel. A good horror story, and in particular a good haunted house horror story, needs certain vital ingredients, firstly an isolated and inviting haunted house, and secondly a troubled even tormented central character. William Meikle does a wonderful job of exploring his native homeland (Scotlands's loss is Canada's gain) and in Jim Greenwood he has chosen the perfect victim to showcase his dark writing talent.
Jim’s partner Beth died swiftly and horribly of cancer and he has taken the decisive step to move into a house by a sea loch on the Isle of Skye...”without her London seemed pointless-a mound full of termites running around doing things that benefited other termites and pretending it mattered a jot.” I find it difficult to believe that William Meikle is no longer a resident of this fair isle as his sense of time and space and his descriptive prowess is breathtaking as he expertly brings alive the isolation of this dark and beautiful windswept island.....”From this vantage point the view was completely wild-no roads or pylons visible, no other houses, just the loch, with wavelets slightly churning in a stiff breeze, the purple hills hanging in a haze across the water and white clouds scudding north across the sky.”
Jim befriends a young estate agent Alan Bean and enjoys his company in the drinking dens of nearby Dunvegan whilst settling into his rustic one-bed roomed home. As befits the setting for this wonderful tale all is not well and soon Jim begins to receive strange messages and notice odd occurrences as he slowly learns what befell the previous owner Annie Menzies.
Meikle’s mixing of the dark, the horror, the setting, the folklore set around Dunvegan Castle and the historical loss of a young drummer boy, many centuries ago, all adds to the atmosphere. The reader becomes confused as to whether what is happening to Jim Greenwood is real or part of the madness surrounding him and possibly controlling him as he lives life without his beloved Beth.
Alex Wark the local minister was a character in particular I found enticing and a great way for the author to express and compare the presence of good and evil...
“How you can still believe in God when there are so many things wrong in the world and it is obvious that he doesn’t care? He looked up and smiled. “The Bible says that God is love. And part of his loving nature is that he allows people to have free will. As a result, we have evil, pain and suffering, due to the choices we and others make.”
A truly brilliant, intelligent, dark tale of a damaged man attempting to find peace and happiness in the wild and haunted setting of the isle of skye. Highly recommended.