The Absence by Bill Hussey

Synopsis from Beautiful Books:

It was a tragic accident. That’s what his family told Joe Nightingale, but the boy is tormented by sinister visions of his mother s death.
Seven months after the fatal car crash, the Nightingales learn they have inherited an old house from a distant relative, the reclusive Muriel Sutton. Hoping to escape the shadows of the past, they decide to spend the summer at Daecher’s Mill. But darker shadows await them…
Who are the guests that have been brought here over the years? Why did the late Muriel Sutton murder her little sister, Alice? And what is the connection between Joe and this lonely Fenland millhouse? Something is moving in the attic. It looks and sounds like a little girl, but its eyes are old and its voice runs like water…
It is a weaver of shadows. A creature of Absence…

After the success that was Bill Hussey’s debut novel, Through A Glass, Darkly (TAGD), one might have wondered how exactly he might follow it up in this, his second offering.

His writing has developed and become more focused since his debut. Rather than taking a wholly supernatural spin on things, it emphasizes real guilt and the fears that people suffer. These are recreated by a supernatural force, creating immensely frightening scenarios from the sorts of everyday emotional conflicts everybody experiences. Possibly the best aspect of Hussey’s first novel was his ability to make the grey area between good and bad in his characters prominant, and he brings this to new depths in The Absence. Hussey explores alcoholism, suicide, the guilt inherent in the destruction of one’s own life, family or friend’s lives. The darker side of the Nightingale family is the focal point of the story, their secrets, their pasts, become the very things they fear the most. The story is layered with supernatural events and an ancient being at their roots, but the tools of it’s trade are natural human fears, expanded and realised in terrifying ways.

Several aspects of the novel reflect aspects found in TAGD. The most obvious is the initial return to the chilling setting of the Fens, the equivilant of settling (or unsettling!) into familiar territory and knowing you’re in for a treat. Additionally, it’s richly layered with character histories, ominous atmospheres, and interspersed with interludes which highlight realistic attention to detail; overall Hussey’s distinctive style has created yet another novel that’s pretty much impossible to put down. There is a constant, almost morbid fascination inspired in the reader, with the stories these characters have to tell, and a desire to learn the fate that awaits them. Several stories are gradually interwoven into a larger picture which culminates in a fast paced, aptly chilling ending.

Hussey’s style consists partially in an awareness that it’s often difficult to pin down a true villian, and in The Absence really explores the idea that there is no strict embodiment of good and evil, there are only fears and perspectives. All in all, while wrought of the same raw talent, the novel’s execution is arguably more concise and even a little sharper than it’s predecessor, a sure sign that Hussey is on the up and up.

9/10

Published by: Beautiful Books

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