Reviewed by Stewart Horn
Sally and David have a life in London, thought their relationship is failing. When David inherits the ancestral home in the Scottish Highlands they see it as a new start and move up together.
Dunballan, however, is creepy: the people are odd and insular, and David starts behaving strangely and falling into catatonic trances. The Beast stalks the woods and a disembodied voice talks to Sally from the hedgerows.
Sally uncovers a curse on the town and David’s family, going back generations. But the evil is much older than that, and Sally’s attempt to lift the curse might have terrible consequences for everybody.
This book surprised me. It has none of Bark’s trademark gleeful gruesomeness – it’s much more subtle, has very little physical violence, and a big chunk of it is an 18th century journal, which he pulls off with aplomb. He is channelling M. R. James’s style, though the folk horror elements are closer to Algernon Blackwood, and the gateway thing is closer to Lovecraft or William Hope Hodgson.
It’s very much an original though. His odd chronology helps build a sense of dread that doesn’t let up.
Creepy, thought-provoking, classy and very enjoyable.