Would you recognize Death if it stood at your shoulder—or crawled inside you?
La Burlière, a family household in the Alps of Upper Provence, is visited one cold, wet night in September 1896 by an exhausted traveler who’s sent to the root cellar to eat and dry off. Hearing something, he opens the trap door to see five family members with their throats slit. Only a three-week-old baby survives. Creeping away, the journeyman sees three men lurking nearby but continues on, saying nothing. Twenty-three years later, the baby has become an angelically handsome behemoth. Raised in an orphanage, road mender Séraphen Monge is determined to avenge his family. He tears down La Burlière stone by stone, but that won’t suffice. Tracking the three men, he plans to kill them, prodded by the whispers of his mother, who haunts his dreams, and by something that lurks beside him, invisible as the wind. Two of the men die before Séraphen can get to them. But he continues plotting revenge, disdaining the charms of neighborhood beauties smitten with his looks. His mother keeps calling, but the more bent on revenge he grows, the more wildly the story spins, until fact and myth mingle in his brain.
It’s a mystery why this pervasively creepy and highly original tale took 15 years to get translated into English and another ten to reach the States, where published predecessors by Magnan include its follow-up, Beyond the Grave (2002).