“It is, quite simply, pure art, and we can only wonder what works this writer will produce in the coming years.”
Readers looking for the best in horror fiction should keep their eyes on the recent, stellar offerings of the small press. The Unheimlich Manoeuvre by Tracy Fahey is one such release that recently caught our eye. Being her first collection, and being that the author has only been writing fiction since 2013 (according to the bio), one might make the assumption of assigning a certain level of amateurishness to the contents. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, what we have is thirteen tales which walk the lines between modern Gothic, literary aspirations, and a kind of quiet, melancholic cynicism about life and the world.
Opening proper with the slipstream, stream-of-consciousness that is ‘Coming Back’, we are thrust immediately into the depths of Tracy’s talent. It is a short piece which serves to give its narrator a fragile, broken voice which can be interpreted in a number of ways; as mental dissolution, as supernatural event, or as simply someone who has suffered a debilitating medical condition, and is striving to bring themselves back to normality. This off-centre, twisting style of narrative is utilised a number of times throughout the collection to atmospheric effect.
We then move onto ‘Ghost Estate, Phase II’, which takes place in one of those lost housing developments which were all the rage in Ireland until the bottom fell out before they could be completed. It’s a setting which has been used by Irish writer Tana French to great effect in her novel Broken Harbour, and it no less a powerful concept here. The trappings of an almost subtle ghost story are utilised to give hints and glimpses of the true content of the tale, and it’s a powerful piece which holds its intent to the very last line.
‘Walking The Borderlines’ is as much a meditation on love, friendship, and loss, as it is on the shadows which lurk just out of our sight. It’s a beautifully written piece which holds as much quiet emotion and depth of character as might a dozen volumes on such a subject. The first, small stumble comes with ‘Long Shadows’, which, while a competently written story of mounting dread and foreboding, gives its “twist” away far too early to really have much of an effective impact.
The collection continues with excellently penned works such as ‘The Woman Next Door’, a meditation on post-natal depression which surprises with its devastating final lines. And then there’s ‘Tracing The Spectre’, perhaps the purest horror story in the book, and one which engenders genuine chills and shivers with its suggestive prose and sleight of hand imagery.
There is more, much more: stories of unwitting doppelgangers; of neat housing estates which hide dark undercurrents; of a strange drawing found behind wallpaper which sparks obsession and marital discord. All of it delivered, for the most part, with lyrical, unfussy prose.
If there can be any criticisms of this book, it’s that a few of the stories fall just shy of their ambitions and intent. That is not to say that they are failures, merely that they lie just below perfection. Part of this might be attributed to the requirement for a final brush of editing, which would rid the text of run on sentences, typos, and minor formatting issues. But these are not frequent enough to detract too much. It is more that with some of the stories, we are seeing a talented writer on the rise, rather than one at her full peak. Considering Tracy has been writing for only three years, this simply marks her out as an author to watch.
With a lovely and personal introduction from writer Cate Gardner, The Unheimlich Manoeuvre by Tracy Fahey is a worthy addition to any reader’s collection, especially those who enjoy quiet, literary writing with dark undertones. The final story, ‘Looking For Wildgoose Lodge’, exemplifies this ambition, being a very short, yet very powerful piece which embodies the sadness and transience of human life. It is, quite simply, pure art, and we can only wonder what works this writer will produce in the coming years.
Publisher: Boo Books.
Limited Numbered Hardback: (142 pp)
Release Date: July 2016
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