Review – Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

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So the first thing to say is that no one does bleakness like Andrew Michael Hurley. And there’s something attractive – and underrated – about bleakness. He did it so well in The Loney (review here) that you could almost feel yourself sinking into the sludge and fog of the Lancastrian coastline. And this time, in Devil’s Day, he creates the impression of a farming community so lost, isolated and ill at ease with itself that you really start to believe the devil might be haunting the moors and forests of the Ribble Valley – and exacting his price from the humans he preys on.

Born into the Endlands – said claustrophobic little farming community – John Pentecost has left to become a teacher in staid, sober Suffolk. He heads north, however, with his wife Kat and an agenda. John wants to return to the Endlands, and he wants Kat there with him. But the valley can’t hold back its secrets for long, and what at first appear to be quaint traditions and beliefs may reflect a darker truth – a truth which Kat refuses to accept.

Hurley excels at drip feed horror – at a gradual revelation of phenomena and events which may or may not be connected, and which may or may not have supernatural origins. And that is where the real complexity of his stories lie – in their ambiguity. Just as in The Loney, it’s hard to say with Devil’s Day where human work ends and the devil’s might begin. And evil itself might as easily be found in nature as it is in any external force for ill will.

It’s possible that Hurley might have overstretched the pacing somewhat with this one. The Loney paid out its surprises more evenly – with Devil’s Day, a good 50% of the novel is devoted to detailing The Endlands, its history and inhabitants. But then again, this contributes to a sense of a world that is lived in, that is real, and that could very well have settled into practices that set it beyond boundaries and belief systems.

Devil’s Day is a story that chills to the core. Perfect Halloween reading.

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Review – The Loney: Andrew Michael Hurley

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It’s quite difficult to pin this book down in terms of genre. On its surface, at least, it appears to offer all the trappings of gothic horror: a dark, damp, semi-abandoned house on the Lancastrian coast called ‘The Moorings.’ A threatening group of wicker man style locals. A bleak, deserted stretch of coastline – the Loney – and an almost obvious contrast between the forces of good and evil. But what is almost always obvious begins to unravel fairly quickly, and what follows surpasses anything like the expectations of a classic gothic narrative.

This is rather a meditation on the nature of faith: on what supports it, and its fragility. Consequently, there are no gore-spattered schlock horror moments. The story is characterised by a chilling menace, the origins of which are never entirely clear until the few final chapters. And even then, the devasating, almost unbearable conclusion  of ‘The Loney’ is delivered with a measure of ambiguity, leaving it to the reader to fill in the gaps: to compensate for the amnesia inherent in the narrator’s account.

It’s a story delivered in prose which is all the more powerful for its level of understatement, for the razor sharp metaphors that Hurley employs, and for an eloquence which at once distances and draws the reader in. In this way, we become both voyeur and participant, aware of how the story is gradually unpegging us from our moorings – that detail can’t be an accident – yet unable to look away. This is Hurley’s debut, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.

https://www.amazon.com/Loney-Book-Year-2016-ebook/dp/B00TONP6UI