by Bernard Taylor
By the pricking of my thumbs,
something wicked this way comes.
Sweetheart, Sweetheart is a classy ghost story about a haunted cottage in the rural english countryside. new tenants, a history of violence and death, you know the drill. it features restrained and elegant writing, some wonderfully atmospheric descriptive passages, an assortment of clever hints and clues, and a perfectly accomplished first-person narrative from a very intriguingly developed protagonist. there is an eerie, almost free-floating feeling of longing, melancholy, and frustration that suffuses the tale from beginning to end. the slowly building tension is also very well-done. and, of course, there is the pricking of thumbs, and words written with dirt, roses left on pillows, glass shards found in ice cream, razor blades placed in cold cream jars.
the novel is swooningly romantic: there is a strongly depicted romance between the two leads, and an even more palpable sense of romance between the narrator and the cottage itself - and the spirit that haunts it... our hero spends most of his time rapturously contemplating the warm comfort of his surroundings, almost always in various states of undress... roses, roses, everywhere - a kind of sinister leitmotif, their presence is described on nearly every other page, they function quite literally as tools of the dead... and, inevitably, there is some very creepy sensuality: this is in many ways a haunting that is centered around erotic obsession. and because this is a novel of horror, all of this romance is completely foreboding, full of dread.
there is an another obsession in this novel that further widens the mystery: who killed whom and who exactly is the spirit in question? the narrator's obsession with his twin's death and the question of what being haunts this cottage make Sweetheart a kind of Cold Case Murder Mystery - one with a nicely ambiguous set of long- and recently-dead characters who may be the evil spirit in question. or perhaps it is simply the cottage itself?
so anyway, another question: who is this Bernard Taylor? apparently a prolific writer of many horror novels, for some reason Taylor has been completely off of my radar. i would like to read more of his works.
Miranda Sex Garden: Gush Forth My Tears, Iris, Suspiria