What I Found at Hoole
by Jeffrey E. Barlough
Cover Artist: A Country Cottage and Church by P.H. Tyndale (19th Century)
Review by Mel Jacob
Gresham & Doyle Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780978763435
Date: 01 November 2012 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Jeffery Barlough, author of A Tangle of Slops and the Western Lights series, continues in his alternate history world set in an England similar to the Dickensí era, but with differences such as Mastodon trains and other weirder creatures. What I found at Hoole follows Mr. Ingram Somervell whose strange dreams hint of other realities and nightmare creatures.
Somervellís uncle died when riding in the company of Dr. Fels. The uncle, in his will, leaves Somervell a mill and land in far off Ayleshire. The uncle left the bulk of the estate to a young woman apparently in part from his guilt over the disfigurement she suffered from smallpox while visiting him.
When Mr. Somervell travels there to inspect the property, he suffers a head injury in a coach mishap during his journey. After that, he experiences strange dreams involving a silver whistle and people from his past as threatening ghouls and demons. Too, he encounters others he had never met before and finds them oddly familiar.
His uncle's lawyer has doubts about the will granting the young woman the estate and also about Dr. Fels. There was a question about the disposal of the grey chapel and Somervell's uncle's excavations. As Somervell seeks to learn more, he learns of the eld or lumerii who have the ability to communicate with the dead. His uncle had studied the legends of stone figures that were elds in some form of suspension.
When Somervell and another man investigate a light at the top of a hill near where his uncle died, they encounter none of the flying predators Dr. Fels said were there and that had contributed the uncle's death. They find the remains of a watch fire near a small hut there but nothing else.
Dreams of the dead uncle, his deceased sister, and her cat, Much, haunt Somervell. He comes to suspect his uncle's young heir is not all she is assumed to be. She appeared soon after his uncle closed the chapel and Somervell wonders if she is an eld returned to life.
His uncle's ghost warns Somervell to be careful. Somervell's investigations place his life in danger. Are the eld real or was the legend used as part of some scheme to ensnare his uncle and acquire the estate?
Barlough excels at mixing the weird with commonplace. In some ways, it smack of Conan Doyle's fascination with fairies. The ending will surprise most readers.