THE WISE FRIEND seems like a nice little story at first, hardly horrific at all. Until it IS!
Patrick loses his artistic aunt Thelma under abnormal circumstances. Some time later, he and his son start looking into her artistic history and her death, after discovering her journal. They begin out of curiosity- because they wanted to see in person the landscapes she painted, (each of which features a shadowy person), to see if they shed any light on her death. They meet a young woman named Bella during one of their trips, and before they know it, she becomes, (almost), a part of the family. Then Patrick begins to notice things about her, - her reluctance to share her address, for one- and soon enough, the "investigation" becomes all about Bella. At least it does to Patrick, which alienates him from his son and the rest of his family. Is Patrick right about Bella? Is something wrong with her? How was Thelma's death involved? You'll have to read this to find out!
I very much enjoyed this, (for the most part), quiet horror story. I love tales where the characters become different people than what they were at the beginning. The family dynamics here were rough, but let's face it-a LOT of family dynamics are rough, so that was realistic to me. I think they acted in ways that regular people would.
I loved the language and the rather slow pace, though I did think it slowed a bit TOO much in the middle portions, due to some repetitious family matters. However, it picked back up again in the last third, featuring some quite scary scenes, and from there we raced to the finish. (I did find the denouement a little predictable. For the slight slowing of the pace and my ability to correctly guess most of the ending, I deducted one star.)
I noticed a few reviews mentioning that the language was old fashioned or too "English", but to be honest, I didn't notice that at all. There were lush descriptions of scenery and landscapes, but I felt they contributed to the overall feel of the book, while allowing me to perfectly picture the surroundings and what was happening.
Ramsey Campbell is an award winning author and it's clear from his prose why. I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in this story over the weekend and I read the last third in one shot, yesterday afternoon. I caught my breath and then said, Bravo!
Available Thursday, but you can pre-order here: THE WISE FRIEND
*Thanks to Flame Tree Press for the paperback ARC of this novel in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it!*