Review: The House on the Moor, William Meikle, 2015.
The subtitle says “A Haunted House Book”. True enough, but this very enjoyable story has elements I don’t associate with haunted house stories: sweetness, sorrow, loneliness, friendship, and love.
John Fraser is a writer eager to make his mark, and he thinks he has the project to do it: a biography of his famous grandfather, Hugh Fraser. So he drags his wife Carole to a manor house isolated on the Scottish moors for a long weekend interviewing the man who knew his grandfather best, David Blacklaw.
In their heyday, in the 1950s and 1960s, Fraser and Blacklaw were worldwide celebrities, travelers, explorers, and champion wenchers. That all ended with Fraser’s death in 1968.
From the beginning of the story, Carole and John are rubbing each other wrong. Carole senses something in her bedroom. There are noises in the house’s library. Some strange man is walking about the foggy moor. A servant has his own story to tell. The enfeebled Blacklaw can’t or won’t reveal all he knows about Fraser’s life. The details of Hugh Fraser’s death don’t at all match the public records. And unknown records exist of that death.
This novella moves to a satisfying, unexpected end.
While Meikle’s fans will catch references to his some of his other stories, glimpses of his larger universe, those new to his work will find this a fine entry point.
I bought this novella in the kindle edition. However, if I had known it had several nice M. Wayne Miller interior color illustrations, I would have sprung for the paper edition.
Additional Thoughts with Spoilers
This is, despite its violent climax, a gentle and sweet story.
I associate personal or familial disintegration with the haunted house story given the movies and stories I’ve read of that type. I expected either Carole or John would end up mad or dead. Instead they end up closer.
Blacklaw turns out to be a generous and loyal friend to Hugh. He visits Hugh’s grave every Sunday. He gives his life at story’s end to save John and put his friend Hugh’s soul to rest. Childless himself and regretful that he lost touch with Hugh’s family, he wills his house to John and Carole. And it will be a house cleansed of its unquiet presence and at peace.