May 30, 2012, $7.99 (Kindle)
Review by Darkeva
As Edward Lee explains in his introduction, Witch Water is a different kind of horror novel for him. It’s an homage to M.R. James, a master of the ghost story, and one of the most critically respected horror writers of yore, but he doesn’t get anywhere near as much recognition as Edgar Allan Poe. He stood apart from his contemporaries by shifting focusing from Gothic settings and tales to contemporary ones.
Rabid, die-hard extreme horror fans who enjoy Lee’s notorious brand of shock and gore who are expecting something along the lines of The Infernal Angel should stick to Lee’s typical fare as they may not appreciate the change of pace that Witch Water represents. It’s a nice variation in the dark scribe’s already impressive repertoire. Readers should go into the book with an open mind as opposed to just expecting non-stop gore.
Far from being an outright imitation of M.R. James, Witch Water takes place in a coastal town, Haver-Towne, thought to be a witch town before even Salem, Massachusetts, and one particular family of witches, the Wraxalls, are famed among the locals, who continue to spread legends and stories about them that have been passed down for generations.
The protagonist, a perverted businessman named Fanshawe, has travelled to the town to evade a peeping tom rap. And his troubles start not long after he meets Abbie, the daughter of the owner of the inn where he’s staying. He becomes fascinated by the history of the Jacob Wraxall, rumored to have been a sorcerer who had an odd relationship with his daughter to say the least.
When Fanshawe discovers the device that gives this novel its name, Witch Water Looking Glass by Wraxall from around 1672, it gives him a glimpse into the past where he witnesses things he wishes he’d never seen. He becomes embroiled in the town’s history and the elements of psychological horror come into play with Fanshawe’s disturbing mental state coupled with finding more unsettling details about the Wraxalls. They become an obsession for him.
Although Lee does a great job paying particular attention to historical detail, particularly with Wraxall’s speech, especially through the use of his diary, early modern English is still a tad cumbersome to slog through. Eventually, all roads lead only to one outcome, and Lee delivers a macabre ending indeed.
If you’re any sort of a fan of horror fiction that incorporates historical elements, witchcraft, demonic rituals, Satanic worship, and haunted small towns, you will love Witch Water.