Jonathan Aycliffe - Shadow on the Wall
"...perfect for those who love to be chilled on a cold winter’s night! "
On a cold December afternoon, Matthew Atherton visits his Cambridge colleague, Richard Asquith. The man appears distressed, out of sorts. The tale he tells is of his brother, Edward Atherton, Rector of Thornham St Stephen in the Lincolnshire Fens. During restoration work at the church, the tomb of William de Lindesey was damaged. Soon after one of the workmen died and Edward observes his brother become more and more ill and fretful. He seeks Asquith's help, but Richard is not sure what is required of him. Atherton requires no physician or alienist for his brother's malady, but this matter is no simple matter of the body or the mind. The Rector believes something was disturbed when the tomb was damaged and now evil lurks in the church and the village.
Aycliffe is wonderful at bringing the past to life in his ghost stories. Although no exact year is given here, with descriptions of villages without gas and people using lanterns, I surmise that this is within the Victorian era. I also feel it is Aycliffe's homage to the great ghost writer, M.R. James, such are the similarities here and James' own chilling stories. Aycliffe's precise descriptions of the flat and dismal Lincolnshire Fens (believe me as someone who has lived in the Fens!), that you cannot resist imaging the fog swirling around you as one turns the pages of this dark and disturbing book. Aycliffe is adept at building a creeping suspense of dread as Asquith recounts this dark tale. This is your classic ghost story involving evil, madness and horror; fighting a malevolence that is untouchable, dead. Asquith's powerlessness is evident here, but he is determined to protect his family, even if that means self-sacrifice. This is chilling stuff with Aycliffe leaving a final twist for the last page to send a shiver down the spine. I wish Aycliffe was more prolific, but the few he has written are superb and he is one of the few writers I am happy to re-read. 'Shadow on the Wall' is perfect for those who love to be chilled on a cold winter's night! Wrap up warm for this one – even if you are sitting indoors!
Reviewed by: C.S.