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Phil Rickman


UK Hardcover

ISBN 0-7156-2384-2

Publication Date: 1991

363 pages; £14.99

Reviewed by Rick Kleffel © 2002



Horror, Mystery

01-25-02, 02-05-02, 03-07-02, 04-29-02, 07-02-02, 07-15-02

The paperback racks of your local grocery store are no longer the haunt of quality, original horror that they used to be. One might see the latest novel by ubiquitous bestselling authors, but not much more. That's part of what makes Phil Rickman's 'Candlenight' an unusual grocery store find. But Candlenight shines on its own, with the soft light of a full-blown novel of whisper-quiet horror. Candlenight is a novel notable as much for what isn't there as what is.

Candlenight is another entry in the 'town with a secret' genre, the town, in this case, being Y Groes, a small village in Wales. For a 'quiet horror' novel, Candlenight is quite briskly paced. But even in the first few pages, where a priest dies investigating a tomb in one of the local churches, Rickman shows that he's going to work the horror angle with atmosphere and suggestion, not gore. Unfortunately, over 500 pages of suggestion can lead even the most patient and squeamish reader to wonder when something is going to happen. Atmosphere is thick and heavy in this novel, and Rickman sometimes seems to think that readers can live on atmosphere alone.

Fortunately, he suplies the reader with interesting, entertaining characters to stroll through his ghoulish creme brulee. Claire and Giles are the sacrificial innocents who, upon inheriting an Y Groes house, move to the village. In spite of Giles' attempt to learn the Welsh language so that he can better fit in, things go pretty miserably. But this gives Rickman a chance to describe the fascinating politics of Wales, with its ingrown home favorites and violent thugs looking for a reason to beat up outsiders. Guto and Bethan are the villagers who haven't succumbed to whatever it is that makes Y Groes idyllic and dangerous. And finally, Berry and Miranda, Giles' friends from his days in the London press supply the quirky American outsiders point-of-view. Once Rickman gets the ball rolling, slowly, it's a treat to watch each of the characters move in the predictable round-robin description of their escapades as they slowly but surely converge upon the final scenes in the novel.

Candlenight is a big, safe, enjoyable horror novel. Rickman's prose is evocative, his characters entertaining, and his situations are mildly dangerous and slightly weird. In Candlenight, Rickman offers a heaping dose heavy breathing and thick fog, good characters and bad vibes. Too late for the beach, but just in time for your first big fire in the fireplace, Candlenight will keep the lights on and the pages turning.