The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb – David John Griffin

StubbsyThe turn of the last century and Theodore Stubbs’ manor house resides in the quirky village of Muchmarsh. A renowned entomologist, he is often within the attic adding another exotic specimen to his extensive collection of insects. But Theodore is also a master hypnotist, holding the household in thrall to his every whim. Theodore’s daughter-in-law Eleanor returned from the sanatorium two months before is a haunted figure, believing that her stillborn child Alastair lives and hides in the shadows. Then she falls pregnant again, but this time by the hypnotic coercion and wicked ravishment of Theodore. A dreadful act begets terrible secrets, and thirteen years later the boy Alastair Stubb begins to lose his identity. It is not long before mystery, intrigue and murder follow gleefully in his wake. The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb is a gothic terror of the highest order, delivering a dream-like and hallucinatory reading experience that promises to reveal secrets both disturbing and astonishing. Do you dare meet the Stubbs?

Thanks to Matthew from Urbane Publications for sending me a review copy of this elegantly Gothic tale, one that feels familiar in all the right places – in a good way – but also has a fresh sort of rampant fiendishness running through it that kept me engrossed right to the end, with its thoroughly entertaining denouement.

The precisely constructed plot is chock full of seduction, blackmail, murder, depravity, madness and secrets aplenty which can’t fail but to appeal to any reader. What makes it more pleasurable is the interspersing of dark comedy from a supporting cast that sound like they are the offspring of characters from a Dickens novel, it’s a fine balance but the comic aspects never ruin the brooding feeling of the novel, if anything it makes the sinister more effective.

The first half feels very reminiscent of Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan, the protagonists live almost separate lives in a big, aged house, yet they contrive to make their shared endurance feel like a claustrophobic and uncomfortable existence. This works well with the slow build up, that takes its time to reach a memorable boiling point.

Part two is set thirteen years later and feels the most fluid of the two, plenty has happened in the intervening years and the injection of pace is refreshing, little needs to be set up now and whilst there is no less drama, plot threads seem to be pulled tautly as the conclusion races towards the reader. I was perplexed by one thread, introduced late on and then quickly shunted to the side after one set piece, when I expected more from it. This isn’t a major problem though and I can see why the author did it,

There is plenty of style as well to compliment the substance, the settings are wonderful, all seem to be old and decaying, suggesting impenetrable mysteries and the villagers are fascinating as they seem to rarely meet and when they do, to not form much in the way of relationships, Muchmarsh is an odd place but I like it for its peculiarity and its abiding enigmatic atmosphere.

The book almost feels like one of those stories that is a curiosity but stands up better than most of those types of books, this is one to relish, outside of the norm and satisfying. I found the twists were not always what I was expecting and that engaged me more to this strange town, grounded in the customary way but beneath the surface a chaotic mix of ambiguities and conundrums.

34 Replies to “The Unusual Possession of Alastair Stubb – David John Griffin”

  1. Sounds interesting…I checked at Amazon.com and it hasn’t been released yet at Amazon USA. At the present time I have a back log of books to read so I’m putting this on the “in the future” list 🙂

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    1. There is always the .co.uk site as well! A back log of books is always a good thing, until you get a couple of thousand then the stress involved in picking the next book can be quite wearying.

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      1. I saw the Amazon UK site…yes that’s a possibility for my Kindle…not being up on the “pound” exchange rate wasn’t sure if it would be cheaper if I waited 🙂

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        1. The dollar exchange rate is always worse for you guys but it does depend on the markets on any particular day. it’s worth keeping an eye on.

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    1. Yes! This is right up your street, with enough ghoulish goings on to appeal to your tastes as well as a well constructed plot and a humorous hypnotee..if that is a word.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Psst .. Mr Stubb is an Alastair with an A but he has an I in the post title. I’m not sure why I would notice that.
    My name is suddenly fashionable amongst writers of Gothic fiction: Marco Alasdair is the name of one of the protagonists in The Night Circus, which I loathed by the way.

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    1. Argh! What a rookie maistake, sorted it now, thank you.

      I enjoyed The Night Circus, I wasn’t enamoured of the plot but the actual circus was wonderfully described, a book of just the circus would have been great.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is my kind of book Ste J. I don’t scare easily and I love a great twist any day! Seems really interesting. You’re really good in drawing potential readers in my friend. Ciao. 🙂

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    1. Thanks my friend, when I enjoy a book, I can’t help but try and enthuse everybody else to read it. I do love to get a varied mix of books up on here but at the moment I have been very horror orientated of late but I’ve finally got around to reviewing A Brief History of Seven Killings, months after we spoke about it but better late than never.

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  4. This sounds like a good one to read! There are so many books. My Kindle runneth over. Still, I prefer print, as I like to cozy up in bed with a book, and my library shelves also runneth over. You make me wonder whatever happened to my binge reading days?
    I’ll keep following you, because one day I hope to binge read, again.

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    1. Space is always at a premium for book lovers, owning lots is the first step to the mighty binge. I hope I can inspire you to binge or win the lottery and then pay you to read because that is how great I am hehe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a great book for a dark and stormy night. 😀 Geesh, it seems like I haven’t been here to visit in forever. Missed you and couldn’t not stop by to wish you the very best Christmas ever and a very happy, healthy and fun filled New Year, my friend.

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    1. I haven’t around yours for a while either my friend, I believe they call that symmetry hehe. I am going to do a big blog tour tomorrow and do the usual wishes but you can have a sneak preview. Have a great Christmas and a wonderful new year.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You seem really to have enjoyed this book. I read a lot of gothics, but this sounds as if it tops a lot of them for sheer creepiness. And the comparison to Mervyn Peake’s work solidifies that impression. The mother figure in that one is the one that creeped me out, with all the birds. Well, anyway, thanks for your interesting review, and please enjoy the holiday season, Ste J! You of all people have been working so hard this year with new projects that you need and deserve a special break. Have a spiced rum punch or a whiskey milk punch or something (punch is the key word here, you see!).

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    1. I couldn’t get on with Titus Groan, it was a little too ponderous for my tastes but I have been thinking about it since I read this book and I must say it has grown on me somewhat in my reminiscences. Perhaps one day I will go through all three books.

      I will take you up on that and go find myself something refreshingly alcoholic, it has been a bit of a manic last half of year but it has been good as well, taught me new things and given me some new experiences which is always a good thing. I have three whole days off over Christmas this year so I am going to be watching Home Alone and reading some which is how to enjoy life’s pleasures.

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