The eerie, suspenseful debut novel—hailed as “an amazing piece of fiction” by Stephen King—that is taking the world by storm
The eerie, suspenseful debut novel — hailed as “an amazing piece of fiction” by Stephen King — that is taking the world by storm.
When the remains of a young child are discovered during a winter storm on a stretch of the bleak Lancashire coastline known as the Loney, a man named Smith is forced to confront the terrifying and mysterious events that occurred forty years earlier when he visited the place as a boy. At that time, his devoutly Catholic mother was determined to find healing for Hanny, his disabled older brother. And so the family, along with members of their parish, embarked on an Easter pilgrimage to an ancient shrine.
But not all of the locals were pleased to see visitors in the area. And when the two brothers found their lives entangling with a glamorous couple staying at a nearby house, they became involved in more troubling rites. Smith feels he is the only one to know the truth, and he must bear the burden of his knowledge, no matter what the cost. Proclaimed a “modern classic” by the Sunday Telegraph (UK), The Loney marks the arrival of an important new voice in fiction.
While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’
— Matthew 9:32–34
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’
It had certainly been a wild end to the autumn. On the Heath a gale stripped the glorious blaze of colour from Kenwood to Parliament Hill in a matter of hours, leaving several old oaks and beeches dead. Mist and silence followed and then, after a few days, there was only the smell of rotting and bonfires.
I spent so long there with my notebook one afternoon noting down all that had fallen that I missed my session with Doctor Baxter. He told me not to worry. About the appointment or the trees. Both he and Nature would recover. Things were never as bad as they seemed.
I suppose he was right in a way. We’d been let off lightly. In the north, train lines had been submerged and whole villages swamped by brown river water. There had been pictures of folk bailing out their living rooms, dead cattle floating down an A road. Then, latterly, the news about the sudden landslide on Coldbarrow, and the baby they’d found tumbled down with the old house at the foot of the cliffs.
Coldbarrow. There was a name I hadn’t heard for a long time. Not for thirty years. No one I knew mentioned it any more and I’d tried very hard to forget it myself. But I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn’t stay hidden forever, no matter how much I wanted it to.
I lay down on my bed and thought about calling Hanny, wondering if he too had seen the news and whether it meant anything to him. I’d never really asked him what he remembered about the place. But what I would say, where I would begin, I didn’t know. And in any case he was a difficult man to get hold of. The church kept him so busy that he was always out ministering to the old and infirm or fulfilling his duties to one committee or another. I could hardly leave a message, not about this.
His book was on the shelf with the old paperbacks I’d been meaning to donate to the charity shop for years. I took it down and ran my finger over the embossed lettering of the title and then looked at the back cover. Hanny and Caroline in matching white shirts and the two boys, Michael and Peter, grinning and freckled, enclosed in their parents’ arms. The happy family of Pastor Andrew Smith.
The book had been published almost a decade ago now and the boys had grown up — Michael was starting in the upper sixth at Cardinal Hume and Peter was in his final year at Corpus Christi — but Hanny and Caroline looked much the same then as they did now. Youthful, settled, in love.
I went to put the book back on the shelf and noticed that there were some newspaper cuttings inside the dust jacket. Hanny visiting a hospice in Guildford. A review of his book in the Evening Standard. The Guardian interview that had really thrust him into the limelight. And the clipping from an American evangelical magazine when he’d gone over to do the Southern university circuit.
The success of My Second Life with God had taken everyone by surprise, not least Hanny himself. It was one of those books that — how did they put it in the paper? — captured the imagination, summed up the zeitgeist. That kind of thing. I suppose there must have been something in it that people liked. It had bounced around the top twenty of the bestsellers list for months and made his publisher a small fortune.
Everyone had heard of Pastor Smith even if they hadn’t read his book. And now, with the news from Coldbarrow, it seemed likely that they would be hearing of him again unless I got everything down on paper and struck the first blow, so to speak.
If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney — that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest. It was our week of penitence and prayer in which we would make our confessions, visit Saint Anne’s shrine, and look for God in the emerging springtime, that, when it came, was hardly a spring at all; nothing so vibrant and effusive. It was more the soggy afterbirth of winter.
Dull and featureless it may have looked, but the Loney was a dangerous place. A wild and useless length of English coastline. A dead mouth of a bay that filled and emptied twice a day and made Coldbarrow — a desolate spit of land a mile off the coast — into an island. The tides could come in quicker than a horse could run and every year a few people drowned. Unlucky fishermen were blown off course and ran aground. Opportunist cocklepickers, ignorant of what they were dealing with, drove their trucks onto the sands at low tide and washed up weeks later with green faces and skin like lint.
Sometimes these tragedies made the news, but there was such an inevitability about the Loney’s cruelty that more often than not these souls went unremembered to join the countless others that had perished there over the centuries in trying to tame the place. The evidence of old industry was everywhere: breakwaters had been mashed to gravel by storms, jetties abandoned in the sludge and all that remained of the old causeway to Coldbarrow was a line of rotten black posts that gradually disappeared under the mud. And there were other, more mysterious structures — remnants of jerry-built shacks where they had once gutted mackerel for the markets inland, beacons with rusting fire-braces, the stump of a wooden lighthouse on the headland that had guided sailors and shepherds through the fickle shift of the sands.
But it was impossible to truly know the Loney. It changed with each influx and retreat of water and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they had read the place well enough to escape its insidious currents. There were animals, people sometimes, the remains of both once — a drover and his sheep cut off and drowned on the old crossing from Cumbria. And now, since their death, for a century or more, the Loney had been pushing their bones back inland, as if it were proving a point.
No one with any knowledge of the place ever went near the water. No one apart from us and Billy Tapper that is.
Billy was a local drunk. Everyone knew him. His fall from grace to failure was fixed like the weather into the mythology of the place, and he was nothing short of a gift to people like Mummer and Father Wilfred who used him as shorthand for what drink could do to a man. Billy Tapper wasn’t a person, but a punishment.
Legend had it that he had been a music teacher at a boys’ grammar school, or the head of a girls’ school in Scotland, or down south, or in Hull, somewhere, anywhere. His history varied from person to person, but that the drink had sent him mad was universally accepted and there were any numbe...
Winner, Best Book of the Year, British Book Industry Awards
Winner of the Costa First Novel Award
Staff Pick, Best Summer Books of 2016 by Publishers Weekly
Noted as a Sunday Times (UK) Exceptional Novel of 2015
A Best Book of 2015 by the London Times and the Daily Mail
Cited as a “modern classic” by Britain’s Sunday Telegraph
"This impressive first novel is luxuriously written, with dialogue springing from richly developed characters. “The Loney” has won awards and accolades from such reviewers as horror master Stephen King (“It’s not just good, it’s great”) and won the Costa First Novel Award, among other distinctions. Nothing about it disappoints." — Minneapolis Star Tribune
"If you are wilting in the heat, you could cool off with the chilly The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley."—Shelf Awareness
"Hurley’s powerful prose and his intense sense of place and character bring to mind the best that the Gothic fiction genre has to offer. Read it before booking that cottage on the coast." — KQED
“The weather of The Loney is English—overcast, thick with ambiguity—and when the heavens open nothing can protect you. It’s an atmosphere for ghosts, for slaughtered animals, for pagan rituals, but Hurley, unexpectedly, uses this lowering horror-movie place as the setting for a serious drama about the nature of faith. The terrors of this novel feel timeless, almost biblical: There are abominations here, and miracles.”—Terrence Rafferty, New York Times Book Review
“Andrew Michael Hurley's debut has a sense of menace from the first page and builds into a creepy tale that explores deep questions of faith and doubt.”—Shelf Awareness
"Fans of Shirley Jackson are sure to savor Andrew Michael Hurley’s Gothic horror novel The Loney...tight, suspenseful writing makes this masterful novel unsettling in the most compelling way."—Nancy Hightower, The Washington Post
"Andrew Michael Hurley’s “The Loney” is such a superb piece of writing that it’s hard to believe it’s his first novel. This deep and engrossing gothic novel about love, religion, the supernatural and family defies expectations...this is a book to slow down and enjoy, to relish how Hurley sets the mood, raises serious themes, and never ceases to entertain. I’m excited to see what he writes next."—The Missourian
"Terrifying debut novel...contains dark, unexpected depths, which only really reveal themselves long after his evocative prose has led you far from shore."—Entertainment Weekly
"In his thoroughly engrossing debut novel, British writer Andrew Michael Hurley provides a chilling masterclass in gothic suspense...The Loneyis a novel of innocence lost—a brooding, beautifully composed saga that will chill you to your bones."—Bookpage
"One of the strongest aspects of the book is Hurley’s deeply evocative (but not overly-descriptive) prose, which is so atmospheric that the titular location’s gray, humid, and bitter air seems to palpably permeate every page...a most impressive and haunting debut deserving of its high praise, The Loney is a memorable tale of curiosity, fear, faith, and sorrow. With appropriately dreamlike lucidity, Andrew Michael Hurley delicately peels back layers of secrets and beliefs to reveal a twisted heart of darkness that is sure to leave the reader with a shiver."—The New York Journal of Books
“The setting is amazing. The cast of characters is freaking weird and out of their time but also very believable. And there's this completely terrifying thing that's going on and half the time you just don't know what it is. There's a boy and his brother, who has a developmental disability, who go every year on a very strange pilgrimage to this unspecified marshy place called The Loney. One year they go strange things start happening and they encounter locals who are at first helpful and then become quite sinister and frightening very quickly.”—Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, digitalspy.com
“This impressive first novel is luxuriously written, with dialogue springing from richly developed characters. . . . Nothing about it disappoints.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A palpable pall of menace hangs over British author Hurley's thrilling first novel, narrated by a London boy, "Tonto" Smith, whose affectionate nickname was bestowed by a parish priest who likened himself to the Lone Ranger. Tonto and his family undertake an Easter pilgrimage to the Moorings, a house overlooking a treacherous swath of tide-swept Cumbrian coast known as the Loney. Smith's devoutly Catholic mother hopes that taking the waters at the nearby shrine will cure his older brother, Hanny, of his lifelong muteness. But the Cumbrian landscape seems anything but godly: nature frequently manifests in its rawest state and the secretive locals seem beholden to primitive rites and traditions that mock the religious piety of the visitors. Adding to the mystery is Coldbarrow, a spit of land turned twice daily by the tides into an island, where a man, a woman, and a pregnant teenage girl have taken refuge in a gloomy house named Thessaly. Hurley (Cages and Other Stories) tantalizes the reader by keeping explanations for what is happening just out of reach, and depicting a natural world beyond understanding. His sensitive portrayal of Tonto and Hanny's relationship and his insights into religious belief and faith give this eerie tale depth and gravity.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"When a landslide during a winter storm reveals the body of an infant, the desolate Lancashire coastline known as the Loney is in the news, and the narrator called Smith realizes he must tell the story of his past there. Thirty years earlier Smith’s family and other church members undertook an Easter pilgrimage to an old shrine in order to “heal” his mute brother Hanny and reconvene with God. However, the adventure was one of clashing attitudes, strange locals, loud noises in the night, hidden locked rooms, and miracles that may not have been God’s will at all. First-time novelist Hurley weaves an intricate story of dark mystery and unwavering brotherly love that lends itself to many rereads. The characterizations are superb; even the Loney becomes a distinct character as it seems the place, not the people, is to blame for the bizarre happenings. Also, while religion plays a major role, the reference is more an observation of traditions. VERDICT This eerily atmospheric and engrossing novel will captivate readers who like their fiction with a touch of the gothic."—Library Journal, editor's pick
“It’s not just good, it’s great. An amazing piece of fiction." —Stephen King
“The Loney is one of the best novels I&r...
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