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“A cottage was found in the heart of the forest. It was charming maybe, a little run-down, but so peaceful - a magical haven for creativity and love. But the cottage had an alternative side - the bad magic. What happened there was horrendous beyond belief.” - Is the Amazon.co.uk synopsis of the story.
James Herbert is by far my favourite author and this is by far my favourite book!! I have recently purchased a new copy as my old one fell apart – I had read it too often, and do tend to read in the bath so my books all have the potential of a soaking.
The story is not as gory as his usual offerings, however it is one of those stories, which plays tricks on your mind - in a sort of ‘Blair Witch Project’ sort of way.
It is about a young couple, wanting to move away from the city, Mike is a session musician and has lived in the city all his life (so is very unsure about country life) and Midge (her real name is Margaret) is an artist, she illustrates children’s books and was brought up the countryside, she wants to return to country life and all its tranquility and artistic motivation. Midge has a robust, female agent, who wears brogues and looks very manly. Mike dislikes her at the start of the story – but will he owe her his life by the end?
They have been searching the small ads for quite sometime for a place to live, when they spy an advert for a little cottage. They take a weekend away to go and visit it. To Midge the cottage is perfect. In the middle of nowhere, a car journey to the nearest village, surrounded by woods, peaceful and romantic.
Mike, the city boy, is very unsure but as they look around the cottage Midge starts to persuade him, she sees all the good things and he sees all the bad. He spots that the lintel across the range is cracked right through, there is damp and the kitchen taps don’t work.
However, they soon make an offer and send workmen in before them to set right all the problems. When they go to move in, the day goes well, even the workmen tell them that the bill won’t be as much as they thought as they could not find anything really wrong with house. Mike remembers the huge, dangerous crack in the lintel, which now appears to have healed on it’s own, then with the excitement of the move, he forgets all about it…
The cottage is surrounded by tame birds and wildlife, including a large squirrel, who they name Rumbo. They feed him and he visits the house, chattering to them.
As the book progresses, the wildlife starts to dwindle, Rumbo soon won’t enter the house, and they find baby birds dead on the step…
The moment of Mike hearing the strange noises up in the loft is full of suspense (I won’t say what they are) Midge’s artwork goes from strength to strength – then one of her pictures is mysteriously defaced, did Mike do it? Why would he do such a thing?
And just who is Mycroft, and his followers who live in the big house through the woods? Does Mycroft want the cottage? Or just it’s occupants? Mike is not a man who will follow cults or even delve into his own psyche, Midge on the other hand, has buried stuff from her childhood deep within, and is very much open to getting in touch with her inner child, and slaying her own demons. Mycroft realizes he has a potential convert…Except he doesn’t bank on Mike and his strong love for Midge.
The story builds, through your own imagination, so I believe very much, that you get out of the book what you put in. I re-read the book as I moved into my own little cottage in the middle of nowhere (am I mad?!?!) I have an interest in psychology and the occult, and think all those things added together made the book an excellent read for myself.
I hope I have managed to whet your appetite without spoiling the book too much. My intention was not to tell any part of the story really as you need to get each event in order to get the total spooky effect.
Let your imagination run riot – light candles and turn out the lights when you read it – in the house alone.
I love Herbert's fantasy stuff, less blown away by his straight horror
kell.b 28.05.2008 19:51
Great review. I have a copy of this book and it is the only thing that I have read by Herbert. I keep saying I will read more by him, one day I will keep that promise.
My only thing about the actual book was that I thought it could have been longer. I am one of those though when reading or watching TV I want to know more about the characters and their background.,