By: Michael Talbot
Jove Books: New York
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The people of Fenchurch are a strange and withdrawn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
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
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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