THE COVENANT by Michael Falconer Anderson


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A tight but undistinguished little horror novel about an ancient curse laying waste to a sleepy Scottish town. As in his debut novel, The Unholy (1987), here the energy of Anderson's writing far outstrips its imaginative stretch. Case in point: the opening, in which Anderson falls back on the clichÉ of group-animal attack (feral stoats stalk and kill an accountant in the small fishing village of Aragarr) but gives it bounce with punchy wording that builds an atmosphere of menace (""He turned back into the clearing and froze. It was filled with stoats. A hundred. No. Two hundred. Dancing, chittering, shrieking. Watching him""). Why the stoat attack? Newly retired L.A. cop Al McBaith, in Aragarr to dig out his roots, wonders about that, and about the other weirdnesses--teens committing arson and then suicide; rolling balls of celestial fire; the eerie blond who runs nude through the woods; McBaith's nagging nightmare about a prison tower. With help from a second visitor to town, the oddly familiar and achingly lovely Annie Ritchie--whom he beds, then weds--McBaith digs out both his roots and the cause of the mayhem: a curse placed on Aragarr by McBaith's own martyred, warlock ancestor and now triggered by the ex-cop's arrival in town. With occult hell breaking loose in the Form of raging storms, crazed forest critters, and mini-earthquakes, McBaith races to bring peace; but that peace proves but a momentary truce as--in an extensive, twisty coda--McBaith learns of his mysterious new wife's and his own real role in bringing the curse to final flower. Like a roll of exploding caps: lots of noise, but kid stuff all the same, devoid of invention and nuance.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1988
Publisher: St. Martin's