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Black Static


The Late Review: The Other Boy

21st Jan, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Over on my personal blog ( at the end of last year I posted an Advent Calendar of novella reviews, and I had intended to do something similar for the Case Notes blog, but simply couldn't find the time. And so we'll make the attempt now, twenty four novella reviews in twenty four days (hopefully), with Valentine's Day rather than Christmas Day waiting patiently at the end of it all. All of the books featured will be e-copies I received for review in the pages of Black Static and haven't as yet scrubbed from my computer.

We'll start with The Other Boy (Dark Chapter Press pb) from 2015, the first publication from husband and wife writing team of Ian and Rosi Taylor, and a book that falls more or less into the currently fashionable folk horror subgenre.

Alice and Will move with their son Toby to an isolated house in the country after he ends an affair, regarding which Alice is full of resentment. Will's lover was into witchcraft, so when strange things start to happen Alice is ready to lay the blame at her door. Out on a walk with Will, Toby disappears and only returns hours later. He is soaking wet with no explanation of how this occurred or where he has been. In the days that follow both Alice and Will notice changes in the boy's behaviour, previously unmanifested rudeness and aggression. They have visions of another boy who stands in their son's place. Neighbour Simon suggests an exorcism, but things go disastrously wrong. It's up to local Ingrid to explain what is happening, but Alice and Will need a better solution to the problem than she can offer.

There's the hint of something good here, but it doesn't really register all that much. The relationship between Alice and Will with all its emotional baggage is brought over strongly. There's a solid grounding in local folklore and superstition. The tie in to events that took place during the war was intriguing, but the idea of a community of pagans didn't quite ring true for me, at least as presented here, and the whole sacrifice thing didn't convince either. Elsewhere, I had trouble believing that the Church of England is so blasé about the work of its exorcists and that Simon's guns weren't kept under lock and key, while Alice's marksmanship wasn't foreshadowed, all of which tended to undermine credibility. The writing is unexceptional and sometimes guilty of rather awkward phrasing, and there's an end twist that is pure cliché. Overall, though I don't regret reading this variation on the changeling theme, it was a bit lacklustre and I feel my time could have been better spent.





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