The Moorstone Sickness

September 25, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, )

moorstoneThe Moorstone Sickness by Bernard Taylor

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Several months back, Valancourt Books had a sale on some of their ebooks. I’ve sort of become a Valancourt fanboy, so of course I bought them all, though it’s taken me some time to get around to them (story of my life). The Moorstone Sickness was one of those books, and when I was prioritizing my ebook to-read list, I bumped this one up, since I had enjoyed Taylor’s Sweetheart, Sweetheart so much.

This book is part of the “Small Town with a Hidden Secret” genre, which is a personal favorite. It’s hard to talk much about plots with these kinds of books. The broad overview of the story is familiar — a young couple is accepted into a small town where the townspeople don’t take that kindly to outsiders — but the story is about discovering that secret.

The story takes a while to get going, which is odd, since I was able to peg the secret by chapter eight (of thirty-two). In that sense, it was frustrating, since I was able to recognize the clues that the main characters couldn’t see. It winds up making them look foolish, and affects how sympathetic they are. I may have been inclined to recognize the clues, knowing I was reading a horror novel, but they seemed to be too obvious.

In addition, the characterization feels a little thin, even though Taylor focuses his attention on Hal and Rowan, the couple. By the end of the story, I felt the connection to them to respond appropriately, but up until then, it felt like they were defined just enough to create a conflict to feed the main plot. The good news is that the mystery — the us vs. them mentality of the main struggle — was compelling enough to keep me engaged in the story.

Tought the story begins slowly, the final events move quickly, taking us through the bulk of the secret within just a few chapters. It worked well enough — I had already figured out what the secret was, so it was just a matter of learning the how — but for such a leisurely beginning, the ending was more like a sprint. I would have liked to have known more about the how, but it wasn’t necessary. I’m learning that this gentle kind of horror that Taylor and Charles Grant did so well rarely explains the heart of their horror.

The story was written in the early 1980s, so it’s stuck in that time period, which could be a problem for modern readers. A large part of the story relies on the characters not being able to reach one another on the phone, and I wonder if readers who have never been without a cell phone would even understand that part. Sure, we get dropped signals, but our constant connections are so much a part of our culture now that I wonder if they would truly get the limitations of a house phone.

I read this in its ebook edition, and I had issues with the way it was formatted. There were breaks within the chapters, some that indicated a shift in scene, others that were just there. About halfway through, I cracked the code — if the next paragraph was indented, it wasn’t a scene break — but it was a little frustrating until then. I kept expecting the scene to jump, but it kept on going like nothing had happened.

Overall, I liked this story, even if it wasn’t as effective as Sweetheart, Sweetheart. Granted, that is considered to be Taylor’s best novel, and it’s the one I read first, so I should expect that the rest won’t be quite as good. Regardless, his narrative style and methodical pacing works well, and the ending took me by surprise. It’s a good read, and a good introduction to the author’s works.

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