The Prologue begins with an encounter between Ellen Bancroft and David Marchant in a London street. Both worked for the Ennean Institute of Paranormal Research, though Ellen had mysteriously gone missing for some weeks. She doesn’t want to speak to him and a short while later Marchant is gruesomely murdered by some invisible force that Ellen has been evading. That’s the explosive beginning.
Then we’re into the story about Dan Brady and his family, wife Alison, son Dominick and daughter Marianna. They’ve moved into a new Berkshire home, Brook’s Corner. Dan works for the Ministry of Defence, studying thought transference. Their children begin having bad dreams and seeing people who aren’t there… An idyllic pre-Christmas family evening is ripped apart as robed intruders break in, ransacking the home, abusing his wife and kidnapping her and the two children, leaving Dan for dead with broken bones and a crushed throat. (Not for the squeamish, perhaps...)
However, Dan survives and is hospitalised for three months. Eventually, he meets up with Ellen who has become an expert on the occult forces responsible for the theft of his family.
Holdstock likes to play with time, and in chapter 15 we revisit the attack on Ellen and the death of Marchant; so the earlier 14 chapters happened before the Pplogue.
Ellen experienced a similar loss of family and now explains that both she and Dan are prey to psychic attack by someone who knows them. ‘In its commonest form, psychic attack is simply the willing, from some distance, of debilitating and distracting effects upon the victim: headaches, dizziness, lack of concentration, depression, hallucination and physiological changes that result in death.’(p111)
Their plan is to create a defensive fortress at Brook’s Corner in the hope of trapping the psychic entity and thus finding a link to its manipulator. The suspense is well done, the tension building towards the confrontation. Fans of horror, satanic action and witchcraft should enjoy this – providing you can get hold of a copy!
Naturally, not everything goes to plan, but Dan Brady survives and learns that his family is still alive, somewhere in the north. The scene is set for his search for them and for vengeance; he has become the Night Hunter.
The other books in the series are:
#2 – The Talisman (1983)#3 – The Ghost Dance (1983)
#4 – The Shrine (1984)
#5 – The Hexing (1984)
#6 – The Labyrinth (1987)
… and I’ll be reading them too.
Robert Holdstock died 2009, aged 61.