Joe Nightingale crashed his car and killed his Mother in the accident. His Father Richard and Brother Bobby insist it was a tragic accident but Joe can't get past the guilt. Seven moths later the family inherit a house from a relative of their Mother's and decide to spend the summer there renovating it. The house is Daecher's Mill, formerly a fully functioning watermill, and the previous owner was Muriel Sutton, a woman who killed her younger sister Alice for reasons unknown years before. The remote millhouse proves to be an eerie location and something is moving in the attic.
The Absence by Bill Hussey is clearly a horror novel and that's not my usual taste these days if I'm honest. However a friend recommended this book to me and I've still got a soft spot for James Herbert's books so I thought a brief wander into the horror genre wouldn't be too hard for me.
One of the weird things about this book initially is the fact it's set in my neck of the woods as it starts out in Lincoln. I know books have to be set somewhere and if you live in a city probably you find your area is mentioned alot but for those of us who live in rural areas it isn't common so that was a bit of a surprise and possibly the reason it was recommended by this friend.
The write up sounds really dark and classically horror, we all love a good haunted house story don't we? However the plot seems to stray the further into the book you get and some of that delicious "something going bump in the night" anticipation is sadly lost in a strange and seemingly unrelated plot twist. I can't say alot more than that without ruining it but this book would have been so much better if the thread that explains about Muriel and Alice was kept simple rather than the author trying to find a complicated reason for the murder.
The characters were really hard to relate to as well, I'm not sure if this is because it was mainly an all male cast and perhaps the lack of much female contribution made the Nightingale's seem very distant and disjointed but I couldn't get myself to care what happened to any of them. The family is supposed to be in turmoil after the accident but I think the lack of connection between the three men made it very difficult to bond with any of them.
Another problem I had, and this might just be personal taste, was the accent. I prefer an author to write the words properly so I can read them and maybe point out the odd word here and there and how it was actually spoken to give you some idea of the accent. I'm not a fan of authors who miss letters out and that kind of thing to try and get the reader to read it with the accent ever present. I find it very hard work to stay with the dialogue when this happens and this book was full of that. Bear in mind this may just be my preference but also bear in mind these characters were supposed to have the same accent as me, what with being from the same area as me, and you can see how difficult it would be for others from elsewhere to follow this.
On the plus side this had the making of a very eerie tale with the murder mystery hanging over the Nightingales and an isolated millhouse as the setting and it could have been a classic, for me the author tried to inject too much of a complex and supernatural reason behind the happenings and if it had been kept simple it would have been alot better.
Overall I found this a bit slow going and hard to connect to. I wasn't keen on the characters or the eventual plotline but some parts were good old fashioned haunted house horror. I wouldn't go out of my way to read more from this author but to be fair to the author I don't often read horror these days and when I do I prefer it to be from a master like James Herbert. If you're a horror fan you may like this alot more than I did so it may well be worth your while reading it.
The Absence is available from Amazon for £4.93 new and £2.30 used, I would recommend borrowing it rather than buying it though.
A moderate 3 stars from me.