I like this time of year, it's the perfect time to curl up in front of a warm fire with a nice glass of Talisker in one hand and good book in the other. Benedict Ashforth's Abbott's Keep takes its inspiration from the classic quiet horror story. Rather than relying on gross out moments and jump scares, the book relies on chilling atmosphere and a slow sense of dread to get grab the readers attention.
The ghost story has always been a much loved sub genre of horror, one which has in recent months seen a welcome resurgence in popularity. It's a genre that in my opinion tests the writers ability to tell a good story. It requires the writer to draw the reader in with tight suspenseful writing rather than a cheap hook. If Abbot's Keep was a test then Benedict Ashforth has passed with pretty good marks. This is an atmospheric story that entices the reader in with a strong plot and for the main some really good writing. Ashforth builds on the tension and the feeling of unease with each page to revel in a wonderfully tense and unnerving finale.
By setting the book in before the advent of the mobile phone, the narrative does away with many of the problems associated with living in a digital age. This was good move as I have always found the protagonists inability to remember that they have a mobile phone infuriating. However, in all honesty it didn't feel like the book lived and breathed the 1980's. A little more scene setting and grounding of he story would have been welcome, just to make the story feel all that more real.
Abbot's Keep is a ghost story that harks back to some of the old masters, with hints of M.R. James and Susan Hill, but with enough of Asforth's own voice to make this a rewarding and worthwhile read.
“Brother, do not try to follow me once you have read this. No good can come of it . . .”
When Clifford Fox QC receives a desperate letter from his estranged younger brother, Simon, he departs his comfortable Yorkshire home to locate him. The letter outlines the harrowing events that have led Simon to the very edge of sanity.
Following a stint at the Brentwell Rehabilitation Unit, failed architect and recovering alcoholic, Simon, is invited by an old school-friend to Abbot’s Keep - a Tudor residence, nestled deep in remote Berkshire countryside. Soon after arriving he is left to explore the neighbouring monastery ruins and discover the house’s dark history. But the more he learns, the more certain he becomes that he is not alone at Abbot’s Keep, and that nothing is as it seems. But can he stop the house’s medieval past repeating itself one final time? And can his brother find him before it’s too late?