Too Near the Dead

‘But it will be all right in the end,’ said the Resident IT Consultant in a rare moment of trying to reassure me. I looked at him and pointed out that Helen Grant’s new novel, Too Near the Dead, is described as a gothic novel, and happy ever after isn’t necessarily a given. Besides, with Helen’s track record, did he really believe this?

I’d agonised about what reads as a wonderfully romantic and exciting mystery set in Perthshire, but which I knew would scare me senseless at some point, possibly without prior warning. After all, it starts with the heroine, Fen, lying in a sealed coffin, seemingly buried alive. It’s menacing, but quietly so. And that sense of unease didn’t leave me.

With Fen the kind of heroine who reads Jane Eyre as light entertainment when she’s scared of being home alone at night, you just know that something is coming for her. Will it be her fiancé James, an up-and-coming novelist, with whom she’s recently moved to this lonely spot in Perthshire? Can she trust him?

Fen is a copy editor with a London publisher, and she and James have bought a large Scottish house in the middle of nowhere, moving away from London. After Fen came into some money…

There is plenty in her own background to worry about. And what about the people in the nearby small town? Or the new house, or the old land on which it was built? It has a ruined chapel, and graves. You really can be Too Near the Dead.

It’s as though having placed her couple in the literary circles she moves in herself, and in a part of the country she also knows well, Helen Grant has been free to give the scary aspects of the story her full attention. Sometimes I wonder if this is advisable.

The book took longer to read due to needing to avoid it at bedtime; otherwise I’d have raced through it in a day. If you love gothic, this is the book for you. Even if you don’t, it could still be the book for you.

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