Anyone who knows me will appreciate how much I love a well executed and clever thriller or mystery. If something is marketed within this genre, with the added bonus of having won an award or two, then it’s pretty certain that I’ll want to read it. This was definitely the case with Andrew Michael Hurley’s novel, The Loney (not, as I mistakenly kept referring to it as, The Lonely!). With my edition of the book proudly displaying the fact that it won the Coast Book Awards, I was most definitely intrigued.
The book’s blurb describes this novel as following two brothers, one of whom is mute, the other his ‘lifelong protector’. Growing up in a family with a very strong faith, the two boys visit the same sacred area on a ‘desolate strip of coastline’ called the Loney, in hopes that their anxious prayers will cure Andrew and give him the gift of speech. Yet, as you can imagine from a place which is described in such atmospheric terms, with a name so close to describing the same loneliness which the land inspires, there is more going on behind the scenes than these people can comprehend. Years later, when the mute brother is a grown, speaking man who no longer needs his brother’s protection, a child’s body is found . . .
Now, this is pretty much my summary of the book’s blurb, and I want to make it explicitly clear that the book does not really follow the events described here. From my reading of the blurb, I imagined the book to focus much more on the discovery of the child’s body, with the mystery then being filled in as we read further along. In reality, very little of the book is centred upon the present time, and the body being discovered. Instead, what we have is a book whose majority is centered upon the past, with the events at the Loney being retold.
The whole of the book is very focused upon building this tense atmosphere, with many classic tropes employed to further this, including mysterious people, strange buildings, hints of secrets, and so on. There is a lot of foreshadowing in the novel, with the sense that we are building to the book’s climax constantly growing stronger. At one point, our narrator, the younger brother who is capable of speech, tells us that his naivety at the time makes him laugh now. I think this is pretty accurate in summing up the way the author wanted to make us feel when we read this book, and the suspense he was hoping to create.
The issue I had with this book, was that I read the entire thing feeling as if nothing happened. The little things along the way which were meant as devices to inspire thrills, seemed insignificant. Even worse, when the main crux of the book is revealed, I was left feeling sorely disappointed. Yet again, I felt as though nothing remarkable had really happened, and actually found the plot a bit basic and boring. Whilst a few possibilities are alluded to, nothing really happens either to explain what was supposed to have gone on, which was frustrating when I felt that nothing else had happened. The best way I can describe this book is to say that whilst it tries to build, build and build its mystery, it has no real crescendo, no real effect or outcome.
In all honesty, rather than thrilling me, I read this book much more as a look at religion, and the effects faith can have upon individuals. The religious presence was quite overpowering, though thankfully this was not done in a preachy way. What I did like was how the book examined the ways in which people of faith can view mental or physical disabilities, specifically seen through Andrew and the relationship he has with his mother. She is so adamant that Andrew can be cured by faith that I felt it often blinded her to the real needs of her son, and the patience he deserved. I would have probably preferred the book to take a deeper look at this, and the effects it can have upon a families dynamics. There is also suggestions throughout the book of the ways in which religion can be abused, another idea which I felt gave the book strength.
Whilst I don’t think that the writing within this book was bad by any means, I do feel that the novel was lacking direction. I think that the book should not have been marketed in the way it seems to have been, as it was not what I would have described as a mystery/thriller, and so I felt disappointed by it. Overall, I just did not think that this book came together as a whole.
Has anyone read this and felt differently, or similarly? Please share with me your opinions.
Publisher: John Murray