Lurker is the latest novella from Gary Fry and is published by DarkFuse. It tells the story of Meg, recently moved to the coast in order to rebuild her life following a miscarriage, seeking rehabilitation in the splendour of the countryside which is now her home. The story begins with the line "He was leaving her again" - specifically referencing the fact that her husband is leaving for work, meaning a two day absence because of the distances now involved, but also cleverly and succinctly providing insight into the state of their relationship. Harry's insensitivity, selfishness and lack of awareness are established in these opening scenes, somehow he sees himself as the victim, that it's him who's made all the sacrifices.
Instead of support and love, Meg feels only isolation - those feelings exacerbated by the surroundings she now finds herself in. Only a few pages in and already the tone is set, disaster must surely be lurking just around the corner...
There's beauty too of course in those surroundings and a vivid picture is painted of that environment. An incorrect classification of a centipede as an insect aside, Gary does a great job in describing the wildlife and scenery of the landscape around Whitby, creating - for a while at least - an image of rural idyll.
It's when Meg stumbles upon some ancient mine workings that the so far understated feelings of isolation and paranoia come to the fore. Ruins are creepy places, dripping with atmosphere, and that atmosphere is brilliantly captured in the sequence where Meg becomes aware of something lurking in the shadows...
Lurker is a monster story but there's still some doubt as to its actual nature, what - or who - it is, even after the final page has been turned. This is a Gary Fry story so its the psychology that's as important as the narrative thrust and it's this that gives the story its edge. How much of what Meg sees and experiences is real and how much is a figment of her own imagination, her damaged psyche? The tale is very cleverly constructed with images encountered in the "real" world - including TV documentaries and kids playing outside the house, (arthropods in the garden) - taking on a darker significance in Meg's eyes. Many authors would have chosen to write this story in first person, creating an unreliable narrator so it's to Gary's credit that he tells the story in third person but still manages to create an extremely effective air of ambiguity.
I'd recommend, if at all possible, that you read Lurker in one sitting and thereby immerse yourself fully in the experience, allow the repeating - though subtly changing - imagery to get inside your own head.
The denoument of Lurker is open to interpretation - but then all the best ones are. It's a subtly crafted tale that packs a lot into its relatively short length. In much the same way that a certain American author has created an outstanding canon of work set in his own North Eastern coast, so Gary Fry is slowly doing the same thing here in the UK.
I loved Lurker and thoroughly recommend it.