Book Review: The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb by David John Griffin (published by Urbane)
It’s *very* rare that I read horror, and this will likely be the only review on this blog for a long while! However, I won a copy of this book in a Twitter competition held by the author and I wanted to give it a read. Before I start on the story, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the stunning cover and inside design! The bugs are shiny on the cover and are dotted about inside too. The font looks gothic and adds to the overall feel of the book.
This tale is set in the late 19th century in a fictional, countryside village called Muchmarsh where the inhabitants have quirky, old English-like surnames including Snippet, Battlespoke and Musty, there is a once a year country fair and a village green. There are references that help to anchor the story in the time such as someone using a motor car rather than a horse and carriage as well as one villager having a telephone.
Alastair Stubb doesn’t make his appearance until half way through this book. The first half focuses on the lives of Theodore Stubb, his son William and William’s wife Eleanor. Following the death of her first child, Eleanor is of ‘delicate mind’, believing she is a Queen of insects and bugs and that the child is still alive and trying to return to her but just can’t find the way. The book opens with Eleanor leaving the sanatorium to come home. Whilst she’s been away, William has lost his job and they are forced to move in with the vile entomologist Theodore who has a knack for hypnotising people - mostly women so he can take advantage - with a mysterious pocket watch.
Eventually this is what happens to poor Eleanor. Theodore hypnotises her and “ravishes” her and she falls pregnant. William wants to take revenge, plotting to murder his horrid father and everything unravels… Skip forward thirteen years and Alastair is living with a drunken William, (who he believes is his father but is actually his half-brother) as Eleanor and Theodore disappeared on the night of his birth.
Without giving anything away, Alastair is possessed and the spirit inside him wreaks havoc on the village and those who were involved thirteen years earlier. And the reader finally learns what happened when he was born.
This is a dark tale, but told in a rather quaint, jolly way and so it didn’t frighten me (which is good as I would’ve stopped reading immediately!) but rather made me feel uncomfortable in places. William is a shambolic character who annoyed me with his inefficiency and bumbling, however I found Eleanor quite sweet despite all her strange mental disturbances. I would’ve liked to have known more about what happened to her on the night of Alastair’s birth and in the thirteen years following. We find out, in a big reveal at the end, but a sentence or two wasn’t quite enough for me.
Also, I got a little confused with the insects as both Eleanor and Theodore had a ‘connection’ to the bugs, I wasn’t sure who was directing them at the end. And was Eleanor obsessed with bugs because of Theodore, or not? This wasn’t quite explained, or if it was then it was too subtle for me.
This is a weird, surreal, twisted book for fans of gothic horror. I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did, but I won’t be reading anything like it for a long while. Not my usual cup of tea!
My rating: 4/5
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