A couple in crisis moves to an old manor house for research on a Victorian fantasy novel and finds the story may not be as fictional as it appears.
Charles and Erin Hayden fell in love in a university library soon after discovering that the obscure Victorian book that's been haunting Charles' life was written by an ancestor of Erin's. Soon after the death of their young daughter in an accident, they learn that Erin has inherited Hollow House, the former home of Caedmon Hollow, the author of In the Night Wood and the man Charles has spent his career researching. With nothing to keep them in the U.S., they move to Yorkshire and find themselves ensconced in the manor house with a groundskeeper, cook, and no idea what they’re doing. Charles throws himself into his research, connecting with the young woman who runs the local historical society and her daughter, almost a twin of the daughter he lost, as Erin drowns herself in wine and pills. As stranger and stranger things begin happening around the manor, though, they’ll have to face their grief to prevent another tragedy. Bailey’s (The Subterranean Season, 2015, etc.) novel has every aspect of gothic horror: the drafty manor, the shady servants, the tortured protagonists. The writing is dense with allusions and details, the narrative twisting and turning in the same way the Night Wood distorts the senses of anyone who wanders into it. The writing does get a bit convoluted and hard to follow at times, but it's in keeping with the atmosphere of subtle dread that permeates the novel. The book is surprisingly short, and there's a lot of buildup to a very quick climax, which would have benefited from more time. The succession of reveals in the frantic last 30 or so pages, however, is tense and disturbing, satisfying for any horror fan.
A modern gothic horror done right.