Lucie McKnight Hardy is a great writer of folk horror. Her novel "Water Shall Refuse Them" was the first book I read by her and this book entitled "Dead Relatives" is the second. As you all know, folk horror is my favourite genre ever, I love the way that stories of old and images of forests and folklore come together to create something wholly uncomfortable and frightening. Nature and animals create a terrifying premise for stories and, through beliefs and the supernatural, we see a very new and exciting way of losing control. Folk Horror to me, represents how little we humans really have control over anything. We like to believe that we are in charge when actually, it is nature, it is the animals, it is the sun and the beliefs that hold us together that guide us through life. If we turn on them, then they turn back twice as hard on to us.
In her anthology "Dead Relatives", Lucie McKnight Hardy explores the different realms at which we are terrified by our own misconceptions of human power, life and death and the natural world. It is a brilliantly written dark anthology where we experience stories along the lines of those by Shirley Jackson all those years ago.
"Dead Relatives" is a story about a young woman who has never really left her country home and she is told she must see her dead relatives. Including weird woodlands, strange holes and countryside atmosphere in the dead of the night - this story is possibly the strongest in the whole anthology when we talk about the rythym and the way in which the story is paced, holds tension and is written. Written to reflect the story's plot, it makes for a perfect opening on to a spooky set of short scares.
I am a huge fan of atmosphere in these types of books and I have to say the atmosphere was really well done here. It was consistent and was written with brilliant pacing - I think the thing I was most impressed with though is how the atmosphere and the themes linked together. The main themes being about nature, family and the home. The atmosphere made these themes a lot stronger since for example: "Dead Relatives" is set within both nature and the home since the house is in a countryside. The way the backdrop of the countryside and the night time make for a spookier feeling of emptiness grows stronger as you read the text and gives a great essence to the story as important plot points start to grow.
I think though my favourite part of the whole book is the opening paragraph to the story "Jutland" where we see the birds overhead and the image of the North Sea is eerie and strange as if we are about to walk into a Hitchcockian Movie Set. The part where it says 'she read somewhere that birds' bones are hollow...' adds to the creepiness of the text since she is on a ferry that is rhythmically bouncing on the North Sea, listening to the birds flying around and thinking about their bones. The whole strange stillness of it all makes for one uncomfortable, but very well-written and controlled atmosphere.
In conclusion, I am really looking forward to reading more of this author and as she builds her bibliography, I am definitely going to be reading her new releases as they come out. Lucie McKnight Hardy has definitely proved to the reader that she is the next great powerhouse of folk horror and that she is also a brilliant writer for the new age.