Richard Kelly, in The Possessions of Doctor Forrest
, applies a gothic look and feel to a contemporary setting, in presenting and then unraveling for us a strange disappearance.
Doctor Robert Forrest clearly has a dark side. We learn of this by reference, as several other doctors, who make up the alternating narrators here, recall events in their journals. Clearly a hedonist, Forrest seems to have left a trail of destruction in his wanton path. He has a somewhat creepy girlfriend and has captured the interest of the son of one of the narrators. They have problems of their own, shaky home lives, uncomfortable relationships with patients. Kelly goes to some lengths to offer a spooky atmosphere. He then explains all in the final chapter, when we get to meet the missing doctor for ourselves.
The book did not work for me. Kelly would have done better to have planted his story in the Victorian era properly instead of attempting to re-pot it in the colder soil of today. He is successful in creating that older look and feel, which keeps feeling out of place whenever contemporary reality appears.
In order for the supernatural horror aspect to work best, we must care about at least some of the characters who will be affected. Yet Kelly’s atmospheric strength did not work quite so well in presenting his people. They remained distant, more foils than lives, and without the reader caring about them, it is difficult to sustain interest overall.
The strength of the book is in the very fanciful explanation presented in the final chapter, when Doctor Forrest tells all. That was the only part of the book I could really say was fun. It is a pretty outlandish explanation, but hey, it is supposed to be a Victorian horror
story. You were looking for Miss Marple? Unfortunately, the fun of the ending did not make up for the disappointment of what preceded. If you are looking for a good creepy read, I suggest you bypass these woods.