Review Details

Review type: Book

Title: All the Dead Lie Down

Author: Kyrie McCauley

Publisher: Magpie Books

Release date: 11th April 2024

All the Dead Lie Down

Reviewed by: Ian Hunter

Other details: Paperback £91.9

All the Dead Lie Down by Kyrie McCauley

Ian Hunter

Tragedy strikes young Marin Blythe, leaving her alone, without relatives, but out of the blue, she gets an invitation from horror writer Alice Lovelace, who was a childhood friend of her mother. The invitation couldn’t have come at a better time because Marin has no place to live, and even if she had, she doesn’t have the means to fund staying there, so it is timely that Alice is offering the job of nanny at Lovelace House on the coast of Maine. Normally, it is the older sister, Evie, who would look after her younger siblings, but Evie is away at boarding school, and things at home are particularly fraught for Alice and her children dealing with the sudden, accidental death of her husband. Given her dire circumstances, Marin quickly accepts and heads for Maine, where she encounters Alice’s daughters, Thea and Wren, who are both odd, to say the least. Odd, and more than a little bit nasty. Thea likes to bury her dolls, each with a proper funeral. Wren doesn’t like Marin and decides it is her mission to force her to leave. Then Evie, Alice’s beautiful, oldest daughter, unexpectantly arrives home, and Marin quickly becomes smitten with her, a fascination that almost makes up for things like Alice’s odd behaviour, which may be down to trying to finish her latest novel and being recently widowed; and also the increasingly nasty pranks that are being played on her. Somehow, Marin seems to be adept at stumbling over the bodies of dead, mutilated animals inside the house. And is there something outside in the woods, getting closer, and is it really the children playing pranks on her, or someone else, something else?

We are firmly in gothic horror, or gothic romance territory, here. With the remote setting, the creepy, claustrophobic old house, a graveyard on the grounds, the foreboding wood, the odd children – even Evie has her quirks, and the strained family relationships. Clearly, there are secrets being kept, and it’s up to Marin to uncover them. Yet while there is horror and intrigue and suspense and revelations and all the ingredients you would expect of a gothic novel, the plot itself is a bit up and down, with the tension occasionally dissipated by the romance between Marin and Evie. In the chapters before Evie arrives, we are firmly in Marin’s shoes as she tries to get to grips with her changed circumstances and unfamiliar surroundings, which comprise the Lovelace House and the surrounding estate. Those would be unsettling enough, but Marin has to endure the awful behaviour of the two girls she is trying to look after, and the antics of the two girls certainly bring some black humour to the proceedings. All in all, McCauley has embraced the trappings of the gothic novel and added some believable yet strange characters into the mix.

Despite the unevenness of the plot, hats off to McCauley for giving each of the 35 chapters a title. I do like it when an author does that, and with titles such as “Horrid”, “Some Things Are Better Left Buried”, or “Mary Had A Little Lamb, What We’ve Got Here are Demons”, they do lend themselves to stirring up some feelings of dread or foreboding about what is to follow. Apart from the chapters, the novel is divided into 3 parts – “Morning Bells and Death Knells”, “Everything You Want Has Teeth”, and “The Shyness of the Crown” – and each part begins with a quote from the likes of Emily Dickinson, Mary Shelley, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, as well as a lengthier extract from a horror novel written by Alice Lovelace.

With this novel, her third, McCauley shows herself an author to watch, and I’ll certainly be looking out for her next novel, “Bad Graces”, due out later this year.

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