SPIDER by Patrick McGrath
Kirkus Star


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In this, his third elegantly macabre book, McGrath (Blood and Water, The Grotesque) provides a psychological explanation for all his gothic weirdness and, in effect, transcends the limits of horror fiction. What results is a truly unnerving and subversive narrative--a fiction that throws most things into doubt without becoming as muddled as its narrator. Dennis ""Spider"" Cleg, a recently released patient from an EngliSh hospital for the criminally insane, tries to ""shore up"" his ""shaky identity"" by keeping this journal, his account of the events leading to his incarceration. And he spins a web of intrigue thoroughly convincing in motive and design. Dennis' dear mum, a sophisticated, quiet woman who married beneath herself to a loutish plumber, is murdered by her tart-obsessed husband, who, with the whore's help, buries her in his potato patch. The 13-year-old boy is then forced to accept his father's bosomy companion as his new mother, which drives him only further into the recesses of his own, strange mind. Writing this journal some 20 years after the facts, Dennis, now a ratty-looking fellow living in a halfway house, soon descends again into the visual, aural, and olfactory hallucinations that characterized his youth: things go bump in the attic; he sees light-bulbs crackling; the smell of gas lingers in his nostrils. The last is a reminder of the act that marked him a lunatic--the gassing of the woman who may have been his real mother. But at this point in McGrath's vividly bizarre re-creation of psychosis, the nagging uncertainties of the first half of the book have expanded into full-size question marks. Having seduced us with a slick mystery, McGrath leaves us helpless in his fictional hell--the internal world of an unmedicated madman who senses his inner decomposition. Maggots, spiders, and rats creep around the edges of this most compelling novel: a study in madness worthy of Poe, but in a voice wholly McGrath's.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0679736301
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster