05Nov A Review of The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley from the Tartarus Press
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley first really came to my attention in a bookshop a couple of years ago where I saw it under the John Murray imprint. Knowing it had been published by the eminent Tartarus Press I picked it up to see what the story was. Sure enough, a large publisher had picked up a title that the small press specialising in supernatural and weird fiction had first published. An achievement, no doubt, doubly so when the book won a number of significant awards. It was thus on my radar and requiring a read. Two years later I added it to my Goodreads list of books I've read, with a four star review. I read it over two days, a feat unheard of for me nowadays.
The setting for the story is a bleak, virtually uninhabited area of the northern coast; the site of a holy shrine for a group of devout Catholics from London. The place has always had an eerie dimension to it, but during the events that the book focuses on these are brought into sharp focus.
Whilst the story did sag a little in the middle, the overall result was a well-crafted blend of literature and the weird. The horrific elements were generally subtle, well spaced and believable. Indeed, the supernatural element remains an under-current throughout, it's as much folklore as genuine strangeness. The characters are believable, well-rounded and carry just enough idiosyncrasies to not come across as caricatures or stock. The story does meander a little here and there, particularly where back story is concerned, and whilst not entirely central to the plot (at least not in my understanding), they are entertaining diversions and help keep characters alive. The novel's denouement is handled nicely, and bringing only just enough resolution to the various unanswered questions. There are a handful that remain, though like with many a tale, this is understandable.
The book brings the eerie and literary together nicely. The genre has been blighted for many a decade by the opinion that it is often frivolous. An unfair statement of course, and a book like this upsets that balance tenfold; doubly so when seen in the Tartarus yellows, a press who have, over the past two decades, chronicled the history of the genre through their publications, all of which could be described as mature works. Thankfully, the genre is in safe hands and the days where such accusations could be made a long gone.