From the very first chapter of Helen Grant's "Too Near the Dead" the reader is drawn in to the drama of this very atmospheric novel. Cue goosebumps and raised hairs on the back of the neck and arms. What starts off as a search for a better life ends up a roller coaster of emotions delivered with a large helping of fear and danger.
Fen Munro and her fiancé, James, want to escape the pressure cooker that is the city of London for a more laid back and peaceful existence in the country. The dream of many becomes their reality when they chance upon Barr Dubh House in the Perthshire countryside.
This impressive new build offers panoramic views and everything one could ever want in a forever home. Fen is able to pick up freelance work as a copyeditor and James settles down to write a follow up to his successful thriller, "The Unrepentant Dead". Barr Dubh seems, for James at least, the perfect breeding ground for ideas and creativity. But someone has other ideas for Fen, who is almost immediately wrong footed by a series of horrifying dreams and mysterious sightings of a strange woman dressed in a lavender gown.
Fen fears she is losing her mind, but there is part of her believes that what she is experiencing aren’t dreams at all, but flashbacks to a former life. She sets about trying to uncover the history of Barr Dubh and chances on a lichen covered stone in an abandoned graveyard. This is the first step to finding out the truth about the woman who haunts her dreams.
The characterisation is excellent. Fen and James are a likeable pair and their interaction with the locals, in their role as incomers, comes over as realistic. Helen Grant also paints a beautiful pen picture of the glorious countryside surrounding Barr Dubh. This is so true to life that it is easy for the reader to conjure up a vision of the setting and to place themselves in it.
"Too Near the Dead" is fast paced and engaging. This reader could easily have continued on into the early hours and consumed the whole book in one sitting. Instead, she managed to break away and finish it the next day! There are many twists and turns and unexpected changes of direction in this book, that keep the reader turning the page until the very end. "Too Near the Dead" is a worthy successor to "Ghost", another of Helen Grant's novels. Both are to be highly recommended.