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The Elementals, Michael McDowell - a review

I’m ashamed to admit that this was the first book by Michael McDowell that I’ve read. I asked friends and followers on Facebook to make me choose between two authors and McDowell was one of the names that came up. Because I loved the film Beetlejuice (and McDowell wrote the screenplay) I chose him, and immediately ordered one of his books. It might be the first story of his I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

The Elementals is a fabulous short novel. Character driven it is not. The story is about place and atmosphere, both of which are described with a beautiful and thoughtful richness that renders the human characters pale in comparison.

The story is spooky, but not chilling (you are almost suffocated by the heat that reflects off every page). The pace is perfect. The dreamlike reality of Beldame is claustrophobic. The characters are sketched out as silhouettes against the power of the sand, the air, the lagoon and the Third House, but even for a reader like me, who prefers character driven stories, that works. It works really well. It means the reader can project themselves onto any character outline and experience the horror first hand, the erosion of place and sanity, the creeping, draining horror.

I loved it. If you love horror and are looking for something different to bury yourself beneath, you should check it out.

4.5/5 stars.

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