Taking home World Fantasy and British Fantasy awards many times, Graham Joyce wows readers with the latest in his “speculative fiction” genre following THE SILENT LAND, one of my top 10 picks for 2011. Literary fiction better describes this psycho thriller with a hint of horror found in Dave Zeltserman’s THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD.
"Literary fiction better describes this psycho thriller with a hint of horror found in Dave Zeltserman’s THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD.... In one of my best reads in decades, Joyce masterfully orchestrates words like notes in a symphony."
Christmas is a time for family to visit. Only this family is different. Peter Martin abandons lifelong friend Richie Franklin when Peter’s sister, Tara, disappears under suspicious circumstances that point to Richie himself. Decades pass, and “Tara has come home for Christmas Day and it’s a miracle to have her home. We all thought she was dead and she walks back into our lives after twenty years and it’s like, oh, hello, have a cup of tea.”
Teenaged Tara slips into another world at a fault line in England’s Outwoods, an eerie “Twilight Zone”-like place at the junction of ancient geotectonic plates. She and a stranger on a white horse “pass through with the twilight” into another realm, “a bohemian land of light and fire, to a place where the sun and the moon meet on the hill.” Disliking that hedonistic foreign land, she can’t return for six months; only her family --- and the world --- have aged 20 years. Tara is a “changeling” but not the type of change most teens experience. Tara has lived with fairies, but “they don’t hate us. They pity us. [H]ere you blunt all your capacities with greed and booze and dope.”
Male psychiatrist Dr. Underwood has the unlikely first name of Vivian and diagnoses Tara with pathological narcissist disorder. “She might have partially switched off the aging hormones, and that could account for why she looks so young.” Narcissism has nothing to do with Tara’s comprehensive thoughts. “Would you waste your time being angry or arguing…with someone who has chosen to believe in God?” Vivian somewhat defends Tara by saying, “Her belief in her story isn’t any different to the belief in certain faiths.”
But Tara psychoanalyzes the shrink saying, “everything I say means something else. I’m sure it all fits into some big picture in your mind. [T]he people I left behind didn’t grow at all. But they watch junk television and read junk newspapers and repeat the phrases they got from their junk television. They’d allowed age to diminish them instead of mature them.”
In one of my best reads in decades, Joyce masterfully orchestrates words like notes in a symphony. Perhaps his land of the fairies is one of miracles. “Thing is, if you don’t believe in miracles, you’re left only with the beautiful and unsolvable mystery.”
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on August 2, 2012