REVIEW: THE QUICK / AUTHOR: LAUREN OWEN / PUBLISHER: JONATHAN CAPE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The Quick is a novel of the supernatural, although it may not appear this way at first. It opens by introducing the reader to James and Charlotte, a brother and sister who live in an expansive house in Victorian Yorkshire. We’re given snippets of their childhood, with an appropriate trauma thrown in, before James leaves for London.
James’s life in the capital reads somewhat like a Sherlock Holmes novel, but without the detective work – apart from an ‘inappropriate’ relationship, there’s not much more than a build-up of location and characters for a hundred pages. It’s good, but less patient readers may think the plot is going nowhere until, in one startling moment, everything changes. The novel abruptly switches to become the journal of one Augustus Mould, taking a turn from standard historical novel to something much more macabre.
To reveal any more would be to spoil some wonderful surprises. Suffice to say, the London Lauren Owen has created is a sinister and dangerous place, a city revealed to be inhabited by factions of a certain supernatural creature that – thanks to some deft writing and use of varying points of view – now feels back in its rightful era, and treated with deserving respect.
There are some great characters in this book, some of whom may seem initially superfluous but eventually come to be an integral part of the plot. Once hooked, readers will find themselves slowly drawn in, wrapped in the macabre atmosphere that permeates the novel. Any complaints are purely personal – characters that feature heavily can be despatched too quickly, while part players are so interesting that it feels like they’re not in it long enough – and, while the initial stages are mundane in comparison to what follows them, they are paid off in a chilling climax.
The Quick is an accomplished debut from an extremely talented author, a work that has clearly been crafted with love, care and respect, weaving plot and characters in a chilling combination that makes it a worthy addition to the Gothic horror genre that has inspired it.