Beverley Lee Digs up the Secrets of Barrington Hall
The horror genre, unlike most others, often draws its main elements from the realms of fantasy and the supernatural, playing on our fear of things which defy the laws of our world. There are, however, some other very real human horrors for us to contend with, and in The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee, we see a couple struggling with the greatest horror of all, the loss of their teenage son.
The story introduces us to Dan and Faye Morgan, struggling to keep their marriage together after the loss of their son. Faye blames Dan for this terrible twist of fate. At a bit of a loss on how to proceed, Dan convinces his wife they ought to spend some quiet alone time in the cottage near his family home of Barrington Hall, bequeathed to him by his late aunt Lucinda, whom he hasn’t seen since the age of fourteen.
As a matter of fact, when he thinks about it, Dan remembers very little about his childhood, what happened to his aunt, or why he ended up never seeing her again. All he has are idyllic memories of the sanctuary his family home and the cottage provided him with. When they finally get there, however, a dark cloud seems to hang above the place.
The cottage itself seems somehow otherworldly and out of kilt, but nevertheless they decide to give it a fair chance. Caught in the clutches of desperation and suffering from a void nothing can fill, Faye witnesses the strange sight of a boy in the woods at midnight. Intrigued by the apparition, she sets out on a dangerous path to dig up the obscure past of Barrington Hall, perhaps best left buried.
Meanwhile, Dan must do his best to unravel his own forgotten past, and with a bit of luck, find the wheel of misery which set everything in motion. While most people would have turned back the second they arrived, for those hardened by the pain of loss, the adventure doesn’t seem so bad.
The Character of Barrington Hall in The Ruin of Delicate Things
One of the more important elements in a horror story, in my opinion of course, is the setting and how well it lends itself to the development of the story within the genre. After all, the characters we follow in this realm rarely produce the horror elements from themselves; instead, those tend to come from the environment and being inhabiting it, if applicable.
In other words, horror is inflicted upon our protagonists by the world surrounding them, and its credibility hinges on the quality of said world. In the case of our novel, I found the setting was excellent from start the finish, with Beverley Lee having obviously dedicated much of her effort to crafting every single detail in it.
The prose used to describe Barrington Hall and its surroundings is extremely detailed and evocative, making it easy to picture the place and hold it in your mind. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the author’s imagery was based on something real she had seen or even visited; it felt alive and realistic.
From the forest surrounding the family home to the estate itself, everything has an uncanny feeling about it, as if evil could spring out from behind any tree or bookshelf, even though it has no reason to. The deeper we get into the story, the more Barrington Hall feels like a living entity, a separate character in itself with a million secrets to share.
It’s not every day I come across a story where the author has managed to create such a convincing and memorable setting, so I tip my hat to Beverley Lee for having created something I will remember and classify along with the other locales I’ll never forget, with the likes of 221B Baker Street.
A Marriage of Two Terrors
I mentioned at the beginning of this review how Dan and Faye are dealing with the very human horror of having lost their son and seeing their marriage dissolving, and while for me this remained the central theme of the book, it was very well mixed in with some supernatural and more traditional horror elements along the way.
First of all, to talk about the former, I was quite surprised at the depth in which the author explored the failing relationship between the two main characters, the schism growing between them, and the immense grief they are forced to deal with.
While I generally wouldn’t expect a horror story to conduct profound character analysis, Lee delves quite insightfully into the psychology of the two characters and the constant torment they are experiencing, especially in the earlier chapters when the stage is still being set.
As a matter of fact, the beginning of the book is rather grim in a very realistic and relatable (in general human fashion) way, slowly preparing the events to come. However, once the additional elements make their presence known, including ghostly apparitions, strange villagers, and unknown danger lurking in the forest, the pace does pick up as well as the mood to a certain extent.
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I think Beverley Lee did a fantastic job in superimposing the supernatural and psychological horror elements, having them complement rather than hinder each other. If anything, the trauma and grief experienced by our protagonists makes for an excellent backdrop to explain their actions, reactions and desires in the face of the mystical dangers they face.
The Final Verdict
The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee is a fantastic, gripping little gem in the horror genre, skillfully combining the devastation of loss with supernatural danger, all taking place in an exquisitely-crafted setting with a treasure trove of shocking secrets to unveil.
If you’re looking for a solid horror story which goes far beyond simply scaring you and succeeds in making you feel a more grandiose and all-encompassing type of terror (the kind we feel in the face of death’s inevitability), then I strongly recommend you give this book a read; I feel like it hasn’t made the waves it deserves.
Beverley Lee is a British author who is self-described as being attracted to the darker side of fiction, as some of her works have surely testified.
She is best-known for The Gabriel Davenport Series, which includes The Making of Gabriel Davenport, A Shining in the Shadows and The Purity of Crimson. She also has a standalone novel titled The Ruin of Delicate Things.