Loch of the Dead

Written by Oscar de Muriel
Review by Valerie Adolph

In this suspenseful Gothic novel set in Scotland in 1889, Ian Frey and ‘Nine Nails’ McGray face an evil that challenges their detective skills and courage to the limit. This celebrated duo, protagonists of three acclaimed previous novels, are lured from their familiar Edinburgh surroundings to a lonely atmospheric island in a remote Scottish loch.

Ian Frey is brought there by the possibility of a cure for his mentally ill sister. This is being offered in return for his help in finding the sender of death threats to Millie Fletcher’s illegitimate son, Benjamin, who is now heir to vast vineyards. But the son’s tutor and mentor is found dead in a remote town, and Benjamin is the obvious suspect. Nine Nails McGray brings him home to the family’s grand house on an island in Loch Maree, while Ian Gray explores the house and the Koloman family, including their pale and beautiful twin daughters.

Evil awaits as Ian Frey tries to find the cure for his sister. The tale explodes into a nightmare of corpses drained of blood, of madness, murder and curses. It involves many of the tropes of the Gothic horror genre – the misty loch, shadows, dark pine trees, omens, secret midnight assignations, as well as omens and forebodings. But bats and blood dominate, culminating in a bloody cave full of bats.

De Muriel understands this genre – he is a master of horror and crime. Frey and McGray are expertly portrayed as they, with their scientific and cynical minds, are drawn into other realities and other worlds where the embodiment of evil reigns in its own darkness. This juxtaposition of the practical – the guns and McGray’s seasickness – and the supernatural embodied in the corpse-like Mr. Nelly is masterfully accomplished. This is a well-paced, action-packed Gothic novel.