Pan Macmillan, out now
Dr James Richardson has the opportunity of a lifetime – to help with some new medical research out in the wilds of Suffolk. But is all as it seems?
There are some extraordinary details in F.R. Tallis’ tale of the possible paranormal, many of which are apparently based on real incidents in the life of the inspiration of its main character, Dr Hugh Maitland, but unfortunately they are contained within a story which simply fails to scare in the way it thinks it does.
It’s a shame because there is some very atmospheric writing on display here, and the evocation of the 1950s, such as an early mention of the Home Service (the precursor of Radio 4), neatly divorces the story sufficiently from the present day that thoughts of CCTV and other modern devices which might help solve the mystery don’t arise until after you’ve finished.
It doesn’t help that Richardson really isn’t a character you particularly want to spend time with: his vacillation and seeming inability to put two and two together – except with the benefit of very annoying hindsight – make you want to shake him by the shoulders and get him to use his undoubted intelligence.
The story tries to get the sense of foreboding of a Henry James story or a film like The Others, and Richardson’s repressed narrative voice should have worked better than it does in that sort of tale, but unfortunately it never really engages the interest sufficiently – and the final twist comes across as one step too far.
Verdict: Nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is, this has too many different ideas at its heart to ever come together coherently. 4/10