As ever, Campbell places believable characters into fabulously dark situations and lets the situation become more memorable than the characters (Midnight Sun, 1990, etc.). Although this time they’re an agreeable group of interesting folks, they too fade once the fun-ride is over. The strongest invention here remains the horror out of space and time that’s centered in Goodmanswood, outside Brichester. When the American professor of popular delusions hears of the madness of crowds in Brichester, he goes there and hasn’t left since—indeed, he winds up as an inmate of the Arbours, a home for the mentally bombed. Lennox is married to Margo, a painter/sculptor, and they have two daughters: Sylvia, a pregnant vegan who writes books about the weird stuff her father wrote about; and older daughter Heather, who works in a bookstore and is divorced mother to Sam, Lennox’s grandson, who hopes to go into publishing (to us Sam would be better off saving trees from publishers). In fact, Sam limps from an ankle he broke while living in a tree and trying to save it from being cut down for a bypass. But—the horror. Some time ago it was noted that a mound existed in Goodmanswood with strange lighted insects flying around it, while several trees around the mound held a lichen that, if touched, gave a person lasting hallucinations—the madness Lennox came to write about. Every now and then, Lennox and a group of fellow hallucinators escape from the Arbours and go off to the mound, along “the path that led to itself.” What is the secret of the mound? Far better than the secret, when it’s at last revealed in eye-scraping gothic type, is the buildup of a living darkness within the woods, a darkness blacker than night itself, with falling leaves that circle about and return as bits of blackness to their trees. And this is magically fresh and memorable.
What happens when you go into the woods, children.