Patrick Torrington’s aunt Thelma was a successful artist whose late work turned towards the occult. While staying with her in his teens he found evidence that she used to visit magical sites. As an adult he discovers her journal of her explorations, and his teenage son Roy becomes fascinated too. His experiences at the sites scare Patrick away from them, but Roy carries on the search, together with his new girlfriend. Can Patrick convince his son that his increasingly terrible suspicions are real, or will what they’ve helped to rouse take a new hold on the world?
Hi and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Wise Friend! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the tour invite and to Flame Tree Press for the review copy, any day one of those red-spined babies arrives is an excellent one!
The Wise Friend tells the story of Patrick and his teenage son Roy. Patrick’s aunt was an artist specialising, as I understand it, in surrealism and also dabbling in the occult, and she died when she… jumped? fell? was pushed? of a building. Having found her journal, with all kinds of weird annotations, Patrick and Roy decide to investigate the last years of her life, to try and understand her and her art. Along the way, Roy meets and falls in love with Bella. Although Patrick is pleased for his son and at first even encourages their relationship, he soon has misgivings. Who even is this Bella and what is she doing to his son?
The Wise Friend is my first Ramsey Campbell novel, which is so much shame on me, as he has been writing horror for decades. Signing up for this tour, I didn’t really know what to expect, what flavour of horror I’d find between the pages of The Wise Friend, because, you know, many people think horror is just horror, all more of the same, but there are so many totally different subgenres, and it’s not always clear from the blurb or the cover which to expect.
I do have to admit that most of The Wise Friend was not the most thrilling of horror. I didn’t experience that as a bad thing, mind, it’s just something that you need to take into account if you’re on the fence about this one: if you’re looking for a high-octane horror story, this ain’t it. Regardless, the first part of The Wise Friend had me turning the pages quite rapidly because I was fully intrigued from the get-go and I didn’t really know where the story, the characters, or I would end up, and I was curious. After a while, I had this little inkling, but in the end I was proven wrong, close but no cigar.
The Wise Friend is slow horror, insidious horror. It’s not the kind that has monsters or villains or ghosts jumping out at you from page one, it’s the kind that sneaks up on you, the kind that catches you unawares, the kind that sneakily makes you a tad uncomfortable and has you surreptitiously checking your reflection in the mirror, just to make sure it’s really you, and only you, that you see.
I enjoyed the writing throughout, the horror sneaking up on me through little details, until the final showdown that had me turning the pages with a desperate need to know the victor.
If you’re looking for a slow-burning, somewhat understated, yet creepy horror story, this is the one for you!