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.