It is a fine Christmas when not one, but two great authors who have been out of print for far too many years, suddenly get the renaissance they deserve! The first is Margaret Millar, the second is Celia Fremlin. As with Millar, I have been giving away as presents Fremlin's books for years when discovered by chance in a second-hand bookshop. Now, having re-issued a few years back her entire catalogue, then given her most famous (and Edgar winning novel), The Hours Before Dawn a shiny cover, 'The Long Shadow' now gets its turn. Described as 'a Christmas story with a difference', this book is not your classic whodunit in a manor house in the snow! Oh, no! Welcome to the deliciously dark world called 'Fremlinland'!
If, like me you have read all Fremlin's novels and short stories, you know there will be a slow increase of claustrophobia with every turning page. As small truths are uncovered, the mood becomes even more darker rather than lighter. Her handling of family relationships is sublime and to my knowledge second to none. No other writer has encapsulated the dynamics between family members, especially between mother and daughter, better. Do not despair about all this darkness, as it is shot through with delicious acidic barbs from Fremlin's pen that will sometimes make you laugh out loud at the most inappropriate times. She knows exactly when to inject a bit of levity to dilute the darkness. Fremlin is excellent at injecting just the right amount of the supernatural and the macabre.
If you have a full house this Christmas, then you will completely understand what Imogen is going through as visitor after visitor turns up at her door. Where Fremlin is concerned you will not get much in the way of festive cheer… however, Fremlin here delivers a cracking Domestic Noir tale that will keep you rooted to the spot until the final page. This is one of my big recommendations for this Christmas. Enjoy!