The Costa award-winning author of The Loney offers another unsettling tale, this time set in the Endlands moors, where a man returns with his pregnant wife to inherit his family farm and encounters the evil that haunts the community where he grew up.
Told in flashbacks this story captures the claustrophobic nature of small, insular communities where people are steeped in tradition and ritual ... Andrew Hurley is a master at making his readers question their skeptical certainties! He is equally adept at evoking a powerful sense of time and place by using well-chosen words to capture a way of life which depends on people feeling as hefted to their community and way of life as their sheep are to their moorland territory ... Having read and enjoyed Andrew Michael Hurley’s remarkable debut novel, The Loney (winner of the 2015 Costa First Novel Award), I had wondered whether his second novel could possibly live up to my hopes and expectations. However, I need not have feared because Devil’s Day is equally powerful and engaging—in fact I think it is an even better one! I found that each one of his characters was immediately convincing because he succeeded in portraying their endless struggles to live with the precarious nature of their environment. His unsentimental descriptions of the frequently cruel and bloody nature of farming and country life added depth and authenticity to his descriptions of their lives ... I really appreciate the elegance and the literary quality of his writing and the fact that he makes every word count in his story-telling, with not one description feeling superfluous.
Hurley is a writer’s writer, his descriptions of landscape and character precise and evocative ... The Endlands are a character themselves, one with a gloomy disposition and a tendency to self-medicate. The novel is narrated from John’s perspective. His voice is infused with the cadences of the local dialect, a style that is vibrant and melodic, yet just strange enough to throw me off balance from time to time. Such disorientation served a narrative purpose: I never felt fully comfortable in the novel. I was always left a little on edge, which is a good thing in a scary story. Hurley’s ability to create unease, combined with his unquestionable talent, make Devil’s Day a standout horror novel as well as a piece of literary art. There were times, however, when I struggled to keep reading. The pacing was lackadaisical, and I found that Hurley relies too heavily on ambience and dialogue to move his story forward. I wanted more to happen ... That said, Devil’s Day is as spooky as it gets.
Hurley excels at claustrophobically small communities. The landscape of the Endlands is vast—moors to the horizon, rivers that roil and flood — but its inhabitants are as penned as the dogs in their kennels. John has tried to leave, but the land—the Devil?—calls him back. Hurley is a superb storyteller. He leads you up on to the moors, into the eye of a snowstorm, dropping little clues, sinister hints at devilment and demonic possession. Then he changes course, scuffs over the prints in the snow, springs new villainies on you, abandons you overnight in the hills. The moment you feel secure in your skepticism—there’s no such thing as devils—Hurley sows a seed of doubt ... At times the book bags and slows. It has all the fear and shivers of an MR James tale, but not the tautness. A slight shear—the chit-chat of the farmers’ wives drags—would make the difference.