As a young child, Jessica witnesses the murder of her mother at the hands of her devout father in an exorcism gone wrong. He escapes prosecution and returns to his native Scotland and Jessica is left in the hands of relatives.
Fast forward 25 years and Jessica, in an attempt to lay to rest her childhood demons, travels to Scotland to settle her father’s estate. Jessica must come to to terms with the monster she pictures juxtaposed against a devout and kindly gentlemen the village people saw her father as. What awaits Jessica,however, is a test of faith, as her family’s lives and her own sanity is put on the line.
What I liked
Chapman makes good use of flashbacks to the days after the death of her mother in order to quickly generate empathy for the protagonist and to set the tone for the rest of the piece. We are led to believe that her father was a madman, unable to handle his wife’s mental illness.
I also liked the scene where her son, alone in one of the rooms in the mansion, is contacted by an entity through his iPod. This was the only part in the book that I began to get a slight chill. Perhaps it’s to do with the use of the modern/technical by the spirit world, the invasion of our safe, ordered, structured world in such a subtle way that gave me a shiver.
Some slight annoyances
Perhaps I have watched too many episodes of Escape to the Country or Grand Designs, but I was thrown immediately by the mansion being described as having wooden steps leading up to the main door(I’m fairly sure that Scottish Mansions of built in the 1850’s would have had stone or slate steps). A small thing, perhaps, but then in a novella it’s important to get small things right when you are trying to establish a certain ambiance. This and a few other ill fitting word choices niggled at me.
I have spent a couple of days considering this piece to determine if its had a fairly hard run against my own biases. I’m both an atheist and a skeptic, which while it doesn’t rule out my enjoyment of theologically based horror fiction, it does mean that the work has to be a bit unpredictable, or do the unexpected for it to tap into my psyche and give me a jolt. I found the ending a little cliché – Jessica is saved by her faith, all she has to do is pray really hard. With my biases firmly in mind then I find that Torment is good stock standard ghost/possession story with some promising passages. I’ll be keeping an eye on Greg Chapman.
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