The exploration of themes like how we deal with midlife, love, and hate in the 21st Century – in the wake of the sixties — makes this a book that resonates long after the fun stops. Hughes’ descriptive powers are exceptional, from the Dickensian characters carrying the full range of quirks – both charming and obnoxious, to the rich natural world of its Long Island setting.
Luke Ferless is a compelling narrator to begin with. He attempts a kind of honesty, addressing the reader as if we were his analyst, trying to uncover his reasons and motivations as he addresses his actions in the present in terms of his past. Luke’s rich vocabulary and detailed self-analysis, add to his charm, but despite it all, there seems to be an underlying self-doubt and unconscious misogyny that undermines his justification.
Certainly it is clear that, for Samuels, horror fiction is cerebral as well as visceral, and provides an opportunity for metaphysical speculation. And often it is not suspense, the vexed question of “what happens next?”, but rather seeing what use the author makes of his ideas that enthrals the reader. An example par excellence of this is “Mannequins in Aspects of Terror”, which takes as its subject a visit to an artist’s installation.