(1983/2002) Jonathan Carroll, Gollancz, £6.99, pbk, 189pp, ISBN 0-575-07367-5
This is volume 25 of Gollancz's Fantasy Masterworks series (the companion to their SF Masterworks), a welcome reprinting of Carroll's second novel. It is the story of Joe Lennox who carries a guilty secret regarding the death of his older brother. As a successful writer living in Vienna (where Carroll lives) he meets India and Paul Tate, an artist and a magician respectively. They become great friends, but the relationship becomes strained when Joe and India have an affair, until suddenly Paul dies of a heart attack. Then the haunting of India and Joe begins by 'Little Boy', the magical alter-ego of Paul. Can they appease her husband's restless spirit and make a life together, or will the haunting never cease?
Carroll has gathered many fans with his novels that combine elements of mainstream drama, horror, fantasy and 'magic realism'. His writing is simple but gorgeous and the reader is drawn into the story almost unawares. Whenever things start getting weird in his novels, the reader accepts it as a matter of course without any sense of dislocation. I think it is Carroll's ability in this regard that makes him such a delight to read. But also, at the heart of every tale, there are recognisable, vulnerable, flawed human beings that are easy to relate to, often endearing and, all too often, tragic. Readers familiar with Carroll's work will have no need of a recommendation but, if you've not read Carroll before, I'd suggest that this is as good a place as any to start.
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