Review of ‘The Matrix’ by Jonathan Aycliffe

1509992This book isn’t my standard reading fare, but I picked it up at a book swap at a recent writing event, mostly because the cover looked so atmospheric and chilling. It turned out to be Gothic horror, much of it set in Scotland, and all I can say is, who knew Edinburgh could be so scary?!

‘The Matrix’ follows recently widowed lecturer Andrew McLean as he moves to Scotland’s capital city to take up a new job at the university, discovers a horrifying old book whilst researching, and gets sucked in too deep when he tries to find out what it’s all about. In particular, he becomes friends with a charming but sinister man named Duncan Mylne, who turns out to have an unhealthy interest in Andrew’s dead wife.

I enjoyed the book overall, although I’m not a big fan of first person deep past tense point of view (eg “I had been studying for some time”) as I find it distancing, old fashioned, and a great way of making a modern, youngish character sound about two hundred years old. It’s very fashionable in Gothic horror, though – think Anne Rice – so that may have been why the author chose it. I’d also have preferred a stronger reason why Andrew became involved with Duncan in the first place; the explanation involving loneliness and curiosity didn’t ring quite true given how uneasy Andrew was about the whole thing.

I see from Goodreads that other readers have criticised the ending for being too abrupt. I had less of a problem with that aspect, but did feel it was a little too bleak. I get that the author didn’t want a ‘happily ever after’ scenario after such chilling events, but it would have been nice to think that Andrew, his friend Harriet, and the priest they turned to for help, had had some effect on the evil they faced – maybe not defeating it entirely, but at least reducing its influence. Otherwise, you’re left feeling that really, what’s the point?

You can see my review of the book over at Goodreads. It probably sounds as though I disliked the book but there was plenty to like about it and I’d happily look for others by the same author.

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