Midnight is a Lonely Place, by Barbara Erskine

>> Monday, May 19, 2003

And the last one was another supposed Barbara Michaels read-alike: Midnight is a Lonely Place, by Barbara Erskine.

Following a breakup with her boyfriend, poet Jon Bevan, Kate Kennedy leaves London for the solitude of a seaside cottage in Essex. The cottage belongs to the Lindsey family: Roger, Diana, and their children--Greg, who is a painter, and teenagers Patrick and Allison. Greg resents vacating the cottage for Kate and when, soon after her arrival, Kate notices strange phenomena in the cottage, she blames him.

Gradually, however, she connects the strange events with Allison's digging around what seems to be an archaeological site in the dunes. This is an ancient grave, the site where a Roman named Marcus was responsible for the deaths of his wife, Claudia, and her lover, Nion, a Druid prince. Allison has unleashed all the energies of love, hate, obsession, and rage among these three. Violence ensues. Meanwhile, mirroring the fatal love triangle of ancient times, Kate must cope with her growing feelings of attraction toward Greg.

This time, the rec wasn't exactly right. This one was much bloodier and gory, more like a horror movie than the modern gothic I was looking for.

I did like most of it, and my grade for it is a B. The atmosphere and setting were outstanding, the characters extremely well-drawn and the plot intriguing.

There were some repetitive elements though. Kate senses someone... a woman! Turns around and she's alone. Or she suddenly smells wet earth and finds patches of it around the house, swarming with maggots. Or she's at her computer and for some reason she automatically writes a curse. Each of these happens a few times, and it all felt too drawn-out. Still, it was all very chilling and creepy, which I assume was the effect the author was looking for.

The "action" scenes were probably among the best I've ever read. One of them, for instance, was some 70 pages long, and it never lost me for a second. It takes some talented writing to keep a reader on the edge of the seat for so long and never lose momentum! When action scenes aren't very well written, I tend to skim and miss most of what's going on. Here, however, I read every word. It might have been a bit too long, though, since I felt pretty drained by the time it was over. It was such a relief when everyone was finally safe (?) inside the house.

Unfortunately, the author dropped the ball and ruined everything with the ending, which was pretty awful. First, it was way too abrupt (my reaction: "That's it? THAT'S IT?? After all she's put me through, this is supposed to be a satisfying resolution??"). Second, it was lame. Very lame. *ponderous tone*: True love triumphs over evil! Oh, give me a break!

Even if I were willing to accept this as a good ending, the problem was that I didn't feel that Claudia and Nion (the Roman wife and her druid lover) had such a great and pure love. She was cheating on her husband, a husband who loved her, and this wasn't the first time either (it is mentioned that one of the reasons they'd left Rome had been because there had been other men there). I really didn't feel that much antipathy for Marcus, the wronged husband. Well, I didn't until he started murdering and possessing people in the present-day story!

Finally, when the contemporary triangle had its final confrontation, I had more or less the same feelings, and...


...I hated that Kate finally stayed with the neurotic wimp!

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