BOOK OF THE YEAR IN THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, FT, METRO AND MAIL ON SUNDAY
'The new master of menace' Sunday Times
After the blizzard of a century ago, it was weeks before anyone got in or out. By that time, what had happened there, what the Devil had done, was already fable.
Devil's Day is a day for children now, of course. A tradition it's easy to mock, from the outside. But it's important to remember why we do what we do. It's important to know what our grandfathers have passed down to us.
Because it's hard to understand, if you're not from the valley, how this place is in your blood.
That's why I came back, with Kat; it wasn't just because the Gaffer was dead.
Though that year we may have let the Devil in after all . . .
Acentury-old folk legend that the devil came down one autumn to the English sheep-farming community known as the Endlands and surreptitiously infected everyone he came into contact with before being driven out colors the haunting events of this masterly thriller from Hurley (The Loney). In contemporary times, schoolteacher John Pentecost returns from Suffolk to his family's Endlands farm with his wife, Kat, to attend the funeral of his grandfather and announce the impending birth of their first child. Almost immediately, they step into a mire of ominous portents: someone recently set fire to the nearby forest, animals are being killed, disembodied voices are heard on the moors, and one of the residents is mysteriously missing. Matters come to a head on Devil's Day, celebrated before the annual gathering of the sheep, when the locals ritually give the devil his due and the border between superstitions and genuinely uncanny events wears perilously thin. Hurley keeps the explanations for what occurs deliciously ambiguous, filtering discoveries through John, who, as he selectively relates past memories to present happenings, reveals himself to be a less-than-forthcoming narrator at best. The result is an intensely suspenseful tale memorable for what it says about unshakable traditions that are bred in the bone.