With Halloween on the horizon Lauren Molyneux reviews a chilling thriller that begins with an intriguing opening but ends with a perplexing close
Andrew Michael Hurley
‘Genuinely and brilliantly disturbing,’ the review on the cover reads. ‘A story that shivers itself deeply into the consciousness.’ I was sold straightaway – Starve Acre’s rave reviews had me convinced this would be a great read in the run up to the spooky season.
Andrew Michael Hurley’s debut novel, The Loney, was very well received, translated into 20 different languages, sold and loved in countries across the world, and winner of the Costa Best First Novel Award and the British Book Industry Awards’ Book of the Year. Following its release, Hurley became known for his ability to create atmospheric settings and intriguing plots that did indeed stick around in the reader’s head, long after the book was finished.
I would love to be able to say all of the same things about Starve Acre. The illustration on the cover and the blackened page edges give it definite shelf appeal, and the way the story is set up initially is very intriguing indeed, pulling the reader immediately into the story world and intimating a thrilling read, but sadly, Starve Acre ultimately misses its mark.
Richard and Juliette Willoughby have lost their son, Evan. Now facing a world without him, a world in which his room within the old house at Starve Acre will forever remain empty, Richard turns to his work as a means of masking his grief, whilst Juliette slowly slips further into her despair, haunted day and night by thoughts and memories, and the voice of Evan.
Seeking the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists, Juliette is convinced she can bring Evan back to her. But as the energies in the house are disrupted, the unbalance created is mirrored in the Willoughby’s world.
As Juliette’s troubling experience with her grief slowly develops into delusion, the disturbing and violent stories which shadow Evan’s past begin to emerge, revealing the dark history of the moors which surround Starve Acre, and confirming the fact that Juliette is not the only person to have been haunted.
Whilst Hurley’s skills at creating atmosphere and intrigue initially are proven true, unfortunately the novel fails in delivering its final impact. It seems there are too many avenues started upon and never fully explored, whilst the slip into what eventually appears to be either delusion or possession happens too suddenly, with little build up or explanation. Readers are taken on an interesting ride into strange and disturbing territory, following a plot which is rather different to what we’re given in the book’s blurb, but without a proper resolution, and with so many story aspects left unexplored or underdeveloped, we’re left with more questions than answers and a bit of a puzzled expression at the book’s close.