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3 trowels

THE BOG

By: Michael Talbot
Jove Books: New York
1987 (pb)

The Bog, which is the third entry in this series of “oldies but goodies” book reviews, could be sub-titled “Archaeology horror fiction done Right.”  Compared to the previous two reviewed novels—Stolen Souls and Tomb Seven— The Bog is a tightly plotted, tense, and atmospheric novel.  This is not to say it is a work of high literary art.  After all, a story that features a sorcerer who first walked the earth some 4,500 years ago in ancient Ebla and who controls a demon even older than he is not likely to be mistaken for a Faulkner novel!  Nonetheless, Michael Talbot has combined vivid characters, a sense of dread and tension, and an imaginative plot steeped in ancient myth and religion. 

The story opens in 53 BC during the occupation of the British Isles by Roman legions.  A young Celtic woman is sacrificed to an ancient god that inhabits the fetid environment of Hovern Bog.  Author Talbot then fast forwards to the present day when the marvelously preserved “bog body” of the sacrificed young woman is discovered by the research assistant to American archaeologist David Macauley, who is a visiting scholar at Oxford University.  Much to his wife Melanie’s dismay, Macauley moves himself, Melanie and their two young children to the tiny village of Fenchurch St. Jude, which is near Hovern Bog, so he might carry on the excavation of this exciting find.   

The people of Fenchurch are a strange and withdrawn people, who. David soon learns, fear the Marquis de l’Isle, a nobleman of ancient heritage who controls by force of will and personality the affairs of Fenchurch and Hovern Bog.  After a rather cold introduction to the Marquis, David is pleasantly surprised when the nobleman offers him and his family the use of a wonderful cottage on the edge of the Bog  The cottage would bring David to literally within walking distance of the bog body excavation. 

The intuitive reader might begin to think, “Oh oh, this is doesn’t look good,” but David is apparently new to being a major character in a horror novel and he and his family take up residence in the quaint little house.   We soon learn that the bog body shows evidence of a truly horrific death by a creature whose teeth marks appear unlike that of any known carnivorous animal.  A second bog body is discovered, showing the same bite marks, and the tension is heightened even more when David and Melanie are invited to the Marquis’ country house, Wythern Hall, for an evening visit.  Not only are they introduced to the Marquis’ “friend,” the exotic and possibly diabolical Julia,  They are served bog myrtle wine, which seems to trigger bizarre hallucinations –or are they hallucinations? 

Michael Talbot continues to crank up the tension as more bog bodies—this time a Roman legionnaire and a high-borne Roman woman—are discovered; the former bitten and torn like the other bog bodies, the latter dead by her own hand.  Then a Fenchurch pub worker is found dead on the bog, showing the same familiar bite marks!  Can the same creature that stalked the Bog before the time of Christ still be about its deadly business? 

Talbot builds to a climax worthy of the setting and his developing plot.  Along the way David Macauley must match wits with a sorcerer who was already ancient when the pyramids of Egypt were being built and his even more ancient demon.  The lives and the very souls of his wife and children are on the line as he struggles against this fiendish foe. 

This is a great potboiler!  It was made to be read on dark and stormy nights and if you enjoy a delightful shiver or two while reading your guilty pleasures, this is a book for you!  It’s been out of print for a long time but Amazon.com still has used copies going for as little as 77 cents! 

3 trowels for this little gem!

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*MVAC Educational Programs are supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these programs do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.  Opinions expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.