You might find Hurley’s novel filed under Horror or Mystery, but in truth it doesn’t fit neatly into either. This is no criticism. There is enough of a supernatural feel, and an element of mystery, to justify either classification, but this tale is really about the fragility of faith.
The story is told through the eyes of a boy, and revolves around a group of Catholics who undertook yearly pilgrimages to the Loney, a desolate region in the northwest of England under constant assault from the North Atlantic. The purpose of the annual pilgrimages is to the cure the son, Andrew, of one of the families. The trips stopped after an event at the Loney affected their Parish priest, Father Wilfred, who had always accompanied the pilgrims.
The story takes place after the death of said priest, and the mystery surrounding his death. The pilgrims return to the Loney, with Wilfred’s replacement, Bernard, along for the ride. A chance encounter on the road to the Loney begins a chain of events that rattles the faith of the party.
This questioning of the fragility of the pilgrims faith is really the story here. The difference between the two priests is key. Father Wilfred is a classic “fire and brimstone” priest while Bernard is younger and hipper, at odds with the needs of the pilgrims.
This is a beautifully written story, and Hurley has given the Loney a malevolent heart that suggests the area itself is the real horror of the story. Be warned though, while this is engaging throughout, the tale is a slow burner, and may not appeal to those who like traditional scary stories.