Tag Archives: Andrew Michael Hurley

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

devil's day

I absolutely adored The Loney when I (finally) got around to reading it last year, and I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Andrew Michael Hurley’s second novel, Devil’s Day.

In the wink of an eye, as quick as a flea,

The Devil he jumped from me to thee.

And only when the Devil had gone,

Did I know that he and I’d been one…

Every autumn, John Pentecost returns to the farm where he grew up to help gather the sheep down from the moors for the winter.  Very little changes in the Endlands, but this year, his grandfather – the Gaffer – has died and John’s new wife, Katherine, is accompanying him for the first time.

Each year, the Gaffer would redraw the boundary lines of the village, with pen and paper, but also through the remembrance of tales and timeless communal rituals, which keep the sheep safe from the Devil.  But as the farmers of the Endlands bury the Gaffer, and prepare to gather the sheep, they begin to wonder whether they’ve let the Devil in after all…

It is Autumn, and John has returned to the family farm in the Endlands, Lancashire, to help with the gathering of the sheep from the moors as he always does.  This year is a little different however.  His grandfather, the Gaffer, has passed away, and, newly married, his wife has come with him for the first time.  John is one of the few to leave the community, and he seems to be feeling some regret about doing so.  The community has always passed the farms down from parent to child, and John seems to feel as though he has betrayed a tradition by not being round to assume his role on the farm in due course.

His wife, Kat, is from a rather different background, however, and whilst she is happy to visit the farm and John’s family, it’s clear to the reader that she doesn’t want to stay there permanently, despite John’s view that as soon as she sees the place, she’ll fall in love with it.  Whilst she gets on with everyone in Endlands, there are some fundamental differences between her and them, such as her choice to be a vegetarian, which is seen almost as an affliction rather than a choice:

How long have you been like that, love?

Johns presumption around his wife’s feelings is one of thing that made me dislike him as a character.  He doesn’t seem willing to see things from her perspective, nor does he seem to consider that she might wish to remain in Suffolk, close to her own family, her job etc. but for him, it’s a done deal, despite his own father’s misgivings.

Endlands is curiously resistant to change and many modern developments seem to be absent from the farms.  This is a community that is fiercely loyal to its traditions – perhaps explaining John’s attitude – and many of the jobs on the farm are done in the same way as they have always been.  Hand in hand with this are the rituals and stories that have been passed down to each successive generation.  Stories and rituals to keep the devil at bay.  It’s easy to see how, historically, the devil might be blamed for illness in the sheep, for example, and whilst it’s easy to dismiss such tales, I think that Hurley does successfully capture the superstitious nature of this community, sufficiently so as to make you wonder what might happen if they didn’t carry out the various rituals that they’ve come to hold dear.  There is a distinctly creepy vibe to the novel at times that kept me on edge, yet also hooked – I really wanted to know what would happen next.

Devil’s Day is a little slow to start, and yet Hurley builds up the atmosphere from the very beginning.  I felt that there were a lot of characters to get to grips with, and I did get a little confused about who was who to begin with.  That said, it’s a novel that is worth persevering with, and I loved the way in which it jumped around in time.  Not only backwards, but also forwards, so that the reader knows something not only of John’s past, but also of his future.  And I love Hurley’s writing, and the Gothic nature of the novel.  I may not have enjoyed Devil’s Day quite as much as The Loney, but I did enjoy it.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Part II

As promised, here is part II of my mini reviews of my holiday reads.

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

don't let go

In an idyllic resort on the island of La Réunion, Liane Bellion and her husband Martial are enjoying the perfect moment with their 6-year-old daughter. Turquoise skies, blue sea, palm trees, a warm breeze.

Then Liane disappears. She went up to her hotel room between 3 and 4pm and never came back. Her husband, worried, had gone to the room along with the concierge – the room was empty but there was blood everywhere. Despite his protestations of innocence, the police view Martial as their prime suspect. He was the only other person who went to the hotel room between 3 and 4pm according to the staff of the hotel.

Then he disappears along with his daughter. With Martial as prime suspect, helicopters scan the island, racial tensions surface, and more corpses are found. Is he really his wife’s killer? And if he isn’t, why does he appear to be so guilty?

I had really high hopes for this novel, having loved After the Crash and Black Water Lilies, and whilst I enjoyed it, I have to admit that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, and I liked it, but I had had a couple of issues with the novel.

The good points.  The plot has all the twists and turns that I’ve come to expect from Bussi, and if I guessed elements of where it was going, I didn’t see the whole picture until the big reveal.  I’ve not been to La Réunion, so I don’t know how accurate a portrayal it is, but it does sound lovely.  And, Captain Aja Purvi was a great character.

But.  Throughout the novel, many of the women are treated as little more than objects to be groped and ogled at, and whilst the inclusion of the odd incident isn’t necessarily an issue (it does happen, after all), to have to read about it repeatedly does get a little tiresome.  In addition, the plot requires the suspension of disbelief, as it’s rather implausible at times.  I also had some issues with the relationship between Martial and his daughter, Sopha, which seemed a little off.

Not for me, this one, although I’d be willing to read additional novels by Bussi, on the strength of the first two.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

the loney

“If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney – that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest.

It was impossible to truly know the place. It changed with each influx and retreat, and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they could escape its insidious currents. No one ever went near the water. No one apart from us, that is.

I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn’t stay hidden for ever, no matter how much I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried to forget….”

The Loney is book that has had quite mixed reviews.  Having read it, I can see why it doesn’t appeal to everyone, although I absolutely loved it.

The narrator, who we know only be his surname, Smith, or by his nickname, Tonto, tells the story of what happened at the Loney whilst he was a child on the last of the many Easter vacations he spent there with his family, the local vicar, and other members of their congregation.  This book does contain a lot of detail of Catholic rites, although it’s done in such a way that even an atheist like myself didn’t feel overwhelmed by this.

This isn’t a fast-paced novel with something happening on every page.  But, if there’s nothing overtly happening, I always had the feeling that something was about to happen, and I thought that Hurley’s writing effortlessly maintained the sense of unease with which he imbued the novel from early on.  Obviously, it wouldn’t be much a novel if nothing happened at all, but it does take a while, and I did suspect where it was going from the hints earlier on.  That said, I still found the ending to be quite shocking, even though I was expecting it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and whilst I can see that it may not be to everyone’s taste, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a gothic tale.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Method by Shannon Kirk

the method

Imagine a helpless, pregnant 16-year-old who’s just been yanked from the serenity of her home and shoved into a dirty van. Kidnapped. Alone. Terrified.

Now forget her …

Picture instead a pregnant, 16-year-old, manipulative prodigy. She is shoved into a dirty van and, from the first moment of her kidnapping, feels a calm desire for two things: to save her unborn son and to exact merciless revenge.

She is methodical, calculating, scientific in her plotting. A clinical sociopath? Leaving nothing to chance, secure in her timing and practice, she waits for the perfect moment to strike. The Method is what happens when the victim is just as cold as the captors.

The agents trying to find a kidnapped girl have their own frustrations and desires wrapped into this chilling drama. In the twists of intersecting stories, one is left to ponder. Who is the victim? Who is the aggressor?

I’m not sure that a book about a kidnapped, heavily pregnant teenager should be fun, but that is the word that springs to mind to describe this one.  Told from the perspective of a unique protagonist, we see how this exceptionally intelligent and gifted young woman is able to scientifically assess her situation and the “assets” that she has available to her, and to form a plan to escape her captivity.

Despite her meticulous planning, there are plenty of knuckle-biting moments when you’re not sure whether she will be ok, and I found this to be an incredibly quick read as I was desperate to know whether her planned worked and she was able to escape, what the federal agents working the case found, and whether she was also able to take her revenge on those that abducted her.

A brilliant twist on the kidnap thriller.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐