Published in November last year by independent publisher Urbane Publications, The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a weird and wonderful gothic tale.
‘Only insects inhabiting dark places were real, all other living creatures seen as dream imaginings, coloured shadows cast onto an equally shadowy world.’
My interest was piqued from the beginning of the novel as we are introduced to Eleanor Stubb, a woman who has been incarcerated in The Grinding Sanatorium for the Delusional. Eleanor had found herself there following the loss of her son Alastair, who was stillborn. Haunted by the memory of her son and convinced he is still alive and waiting for her, Eleanor is locked away. However, having managed to convince her jailers she was cured and released of her demons, her husband William arrives to be reunited with her, to take her home. But on their arrival at the Manor House in the village of Muchmarsh, this creepy tale had only just begun.
‘Stubb nipped the legs from a furred spider, one by one.’
Awaiting his daughter-in-laws arrival is Theodore Stubb, a renowned entomologist who is often found in his attic filled with insects. This in itself is quite a chilling prospect but there is even more to Theodore that is unnerving, something which threatens William and Eleanor’s future. So begins a series of odd events amongst a collection of strange characters which make for a disturbing, chilling tale. The outcome of these events concerns a second Alastair, another boy’s story, and another mystery…
“With insects, doctor; squashed, dead insects”
The events of the second part of the novel take place thirteen years after the first. Living with his father, the terrible secrets of Alastair’s past soon start to unravel as the curious teenager enquires as to the whereabouts of his mother. He begins to lose control of his life and his identity. As Alastair’s behaviour gets stranger the neighbours point to his mother, convinced that his mental state is hereditary. However, all is not what it seems and Alastair’s behaviours are out of his control, and beyond most people’s comprehension. This second part of the novel is particularly curious and has a definite gothic feel. It is a very atmospheric story; I enjoyed the imagery and sinister setting of Muchmarsh – a seemingly quiet village that contains mysterious people. The cast of characters were flawed and interesting and had almost Dickensian names.
‘A scarlet balloon was floating gracefully away…’
The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is an enjoyable read. It is a strange gothic tale filled with strange goings on and even stranger characters. A great read for those who are fans of books that are a little bit different. I certainly won’t be forgetting the Stubb family for a while!
The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is published by Urbane Publications. Many thanks to Matthew at Urbane Publications for providing a copy for review.