Wake's End, home of the Stearne family, sits in a remote part of the fens, cut off from the world by the water and reed beds; even in the '60s 'progress' in the shape of draining the fen has not reached here. The last of the family, Maud, lives there quietly, surrounded by her memories of an horrific crime, for which her father, Edmund, was imprisoned. For fifty years, the events at Wake's End have been forgotten but now some of Edmund Stearne's paintings have come to light - strange disturbing images he worked on while an inmate at Broadmoor - and the press have begun to snoop around, putting their own lurid interpretation on events, and wanting to know more. Maud at last is forced to talk about her long ago childhood, and the discovery of the Wakenhyrst Doom painting which sparked her father's monomania.
This is one of those books which start at the end - so you're always aware that something deeply disturbing happened many years ago - and then travels back to the lead up to that incident. Of course, this leads the reader to try to guess how all the pieces fit together, but there are unexpected twists there to surprise.
Although it has a lot of the trappings of a horror story, it's more the story of one man's descent into madness and obsession, helped on his way by his odd religious beliefs, fixation on the 'devil' painting uncovered at the local church, and guilt over on incident from his childhood.
Maybe it's not as terrifying as the publisher's blurb might lead you to believe but it's still a chills-up-the-spine read, filled with that sense of creeping horror that Paver did so well in Dark Matter - this time with a gothic twist which no doubt helps the ominous atmosphere and build up of tension. Good creepy stuff!
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Head Of Zeus
Genre - gothic horror