Eerie, taut and bleak, Andrew Michael’s Costa Award winning debut novel marks him out as an author of immediate reckoning. He had my pulse gripped throughout the book, as he masterfully took me along the wefts and weaves of a tapestry that was ingenious, intense and immersing. “The Loney” is categorised as belong to the genre of horror. But in a refreshing break the book does not contain the exasperating and irritating grime, grist and gore that is invariably associated with this genre. There are no putrefying freckle faced half human half gargoyles jumping upon the reader with annoying frequencies and at intervals that are nauseatingly predictable. Instead the story accumulates a hairs-standing-at-the-nape-of-the-neck intensity that courses through the chapters before culminating in a singularly unique climax.
The Loney is a desolate spit of land dotted by decrepit houses that are inhabited by disconsolate people forced to put up with a dreadful ebb and flow of a dangerous tide that arranges innumerable meetings with the Maker for both humans, and animals alike. So what is it that brings the Smith family along with a band of devoted Christians every Easter to this otherwise abandoned junk of a setting from London? The boys of the Smiths, Andrew the mute boy and his younger brother (whose name remains a mystery till the end of the book) are the main protagonists of this intricate book. Although regular visitors to the Loney the brothers never inculcate a sense of familiarity with the place. In fact it is a sense of foreboding that accords constant company to their siblings on their annual outings to the drab island. Their innermost apprehensions are translated into the most ominous of outcomes when on a visit to The Loney, the brothers have a chance encounter with a couple driving a Daimler with a pregnant girl named Else in tow. Nothing seems as they are anymore and illusions are no longer temporal reflections of the mind and the eyes.
The most arresting feature of Hurley’s book is the open ended flexibility that he accords the reader to formulate his/her own plot. Any Chapter after the introduction could have been crafted, altered or modified by the reader without sullying the contextual essence of the broad outline. This wonderful aspect derives its ultimate recognition with what ought to be one of the most uniquely open endings that can be found in any work of fiction. The ending is what the reader perceives it to be, interprets it to be or even wishes it to be! “The Loney” in fact is a book that has to find its ending in the mind and perception of every reader. Hurley just begins the book and leads his readers towards the end before inconspicuously leaving him/her to uninfluenced conclusions.
I have made mine and I am still reeling from the consequence!