AUTHOR: ROBERT EDRIC
Details: Received from Transworld Books through Bookswarm
Uncorrected proof copy
In a small Nottinghamshire town early in the 20th century five girls claim to have encountered a terrifying apparition while walking in the woods. According to the girls the creature they encountered was neither man nor beast and appeared demonic.
While a lot of people are more than happy to brush these statements aside as mischievous attention seeking by the girls, they cause enough upheaval for an official inquiry to be called.
Three local men, a minister, a doctor and a magistrate are joined by Merritt, an official investigator appointed from outside the town. Together these men will interview the girls, witnesses and other interested parties in order to decide what lies at the root of the girl’s statements. They will have to determine if this is a case of group hysteria, demonic possession or, as most are inclined to think, bold lies.
Merritt has been part of similar investigations all over the country and knows that by their nature they are difficult and that he as the outsider will get the blame for anything going wrong.
From the very start though, this investigation is more difficult than any he has undertaken before. With the girls he interviews sticking to their story and the national press taking an active interest in the case Merritt finds himself becoming more frustrated and cornered with every passing day. And while it is unlikely that he is actually dealing with the Devil, Merritt does find himself up against a level of evil that he’s not quite equipped to recognise early enough or adequately deal with.
This was a fascinating book and not quite what I was expecting based on the blurb that accompanied it. While I was ready for a story full of supernatural manifestations I found myself mostly reading about people and their all too human shortcomings; pride, greed, vanity, petty resentments and plain old meanness take pride of place in most of the characters in this book, which creates a not very nice but utterly realistic picture. None of the characters in this book are faultless and some are downright despicable, but all are true to life and recognisable. And it is because of the all too easy to believe portrayal of humans in all their selfishness and disregard for others, that this story is more tension-filled than any amount of demons could ever make it.
My one reservation regarding this book has to do with the ending. It seems to me that the discovery on the final pages was conclusive enough to take matters further, which the author, unfortunately, doesn’t do.
The writing in this book is very good. Although this is not an action packed, thrill a minute sort of story the quality of the writing and the underlying tension sweep the story along and the reader with it.
This was my first book by Edric but I know I will be looking for his earlier works in the future. An author who can take what appears to be a straightforward and not very exciting situation and turn it into a fascinating and almost impossible to put down intrigue deserves further investigation.