A Moonlit Path of Madness - by Catherine McCarthy
I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of this novella from Netgalley, I’d looked forward to having it since its almost-Dave McKean-ian cover made its first debut on the social media platforms. Eye candy, indeed, and with McCarthy at the helm, I was pretty sure the contents would be spellbinding. I was not disappointed.
I’m an unabashed fan of Catherine’s prose, her voice lulling me into a sensuous calm from any of the numerous worlds she has taken me. Her books present elements of mysteries, puzzles to be solved with an underlying horror creating tension, and deadlines that rush alarmingly toward the reader, in their attempts to understand the danger before it is too late.
So it is with “Moonlit”, where the mortal danger the MC finds herself confronted with has a finite deadline, and I use the word well – (it has its origins in the American civil war, where lines were painted on the floor around prisons, and prisoners who crossed or stood on the line were shot) the painted line in this book is extended time, beautifully symbolized by a grandfather clock under restoration and the defining horror that rushes Grace - our troubled MC – towards her fate is Madness.
As is standard (and is anything but standard) in McCarthy’s books, the beauty of her world is enriched by her characters and their history. She is the kind of writer that, upon introducing characters, you know automatically that you are going to love, hate, sympathize, or detest them. Her character work is exemplary, shown lovingly here through Grace’s interactions with her maid, Lilah, and the budding possible soul mate character of Gruff (and how cool is that name? Gruff by name, gruff by nature).
My experience of Moonlit could best be summarized as “enchanted”. It has that Jane Austin/ Bronte sisters feel to it, the innocence and rigid gender-roled backdrop to a slow, creeping horror that begs to be understood. Illustrated against a background tale of house renovation, antique clock restoration, and re-location to another land (the three R’s), Moonlit achieves both authenticity and a pervading gothic sense of unease and disquiet.
The one thorn comes at the close, a reveal which ties together most of the plot threads, information withheld from one character to another, and decides the fate of the MC. There were enough hints throughout the novella before that reveal that I had figured out 80% of the theme, enough that the revelation didn’t feel like an info dump, and as I mentioned in my last review of Catherine’s work, presently her endings have a bite of cruelness to them, the rip of possibility cut short, clean and sudden, to head where we were always meant to go and drag us down with the character(s) we have come to love.
Pretty much like life, it hurts more when it means something to you.
Another 5 ⭐ ‘s. Keep them coming, Catherine.
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