Monday, November 12, 2007

The Devil’s Footprints-John Burnside

The Devil’s Footprints
John Burnside
Doubleday, Jan 2008, $23.95, 240 pp.
ISBN: 9780385522890

The town of Coldhaven in Scotland was never good for the Gardiners; father, mother and child dies by the mother’s hand although the son didn’t know what the townsfolk were doing to his parents and they were ignorant to what the school bully was doing to him. The townsfolk put dog poop through their mail slot, sent obscene letters and threatening phone calls. The town bully treated the lad in a sadistic fashion until with the advice of a kindly woman he took care of the problem.

He has a fling with Moira who dumped him for brawny Tom. Convinced he was the devil, she killed her two sons and then committed suicide. She made sure her daughter Hazel lived and Michael Gardiner begins to wonder if she was his daughter. He begins following her and since she hates her life she becomes friends with him. While his relationship with his wife falters, the same woman who urged Michael to take care of the town bully pushes him to get Hazel away from her father.

On the surface Coldhaven might look like a nice plaice to live but it is a cesspool of evil. Parents pass down that legacy to their children who pass it down to their children in a never-ending story that makes newcomers to the village feel the miasma of corruption. Told from the view of the protagonist, readers come to realize that horror is not limited to the supernatural but is stronger when it’s humanly personal.

Harriet Klausner

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