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Absence, The
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A friend recommended Bill Hussey's first book - `Through a Glass, Darkly' - to me when it came out last year. I picked it up from my local bookshop and finished it in one sitting. I remember thinking how writing such a good first novel must be a mixed blessing - how on earth do you follow it up? Well, I needn't have feared - with this new book Hussey has developed as a writer and produced another thrilling and gut-wrenching reading experience. This is an original horror story told with real depth and with beautiful, atmospheric prose.

Joe Nightingale is a young boy crippled by the guilt surrounding his mother's death. His brother Bobby has been psychologically scarred by the suicide of his best friend. Their father Richard has his own dark thoughts to contend with. Into this world of fear and remorse comes news that the Nightingales have inherited a house from a distant relative. The family spend the summer in their new home and hope in that the isolated property will allow them a measure of peace. Instead they find an ancient horror waiting in the shadows...

The family-at-war scenario may seem familiar but in `The Absence' is it taken to horrific new levels. The emotional conflict between these characters slams out of the page and hits the reader square between the eyes. The other aspect to the book I found impressive was the atmosphere of the Fens - as with his first book, Hussey has a unique ability to transport the reader to the scene of the action. This world of damp marshes and stagnant waterways is brought eerily to life - you can almost feel the sweating Fen mist on your face!

Then we come to the horrors! I read this on a warm spring afternoon, the sun blazing, but I couldn't help shivering. Despite the almost poetic, lilting language of the prose, there are some brutal and truly frightening nuggets tucked away here. Still, it struck me that the really horrific stuff comes, not from the supernatural episodes - although those are scary enough - but from the domestic horrors that occur between the Nightingale family. Hussey has tapped into the most frightening thing about human life - not ghosts and ghouls - but the shadows of past sins and how we inflict pain and misery on those we love. Some of the horrible things the Nightingales do to each other in `The Absence' left me breathless.

So do yourself a favour: take Hussey's hand and let him lead you through the Fen mist and into the darkness of `the Shadow House'. You won't regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2010
The Absence tries to follow the story of a highly dysfunctional family comprised of alcoholic widower father Richard Nightingale and his two sons, Joe and Bobby, the latter of which is particularly wayward. After receiving an inheritance of an old watermill and house from a relative of his ex wife, Richard is persuaded by a lawyer to at least check it out before selling it, and thus they set off ostensibly to rebuild their shattered family and patch up relationships.

What follows however is a cacophony of interlocking threads and a whole jumble of ideas and stories, which I feel are haphazardly and at times confusingly flung together.

The author has some stand-out good ideas, such as his drawing on Lincolnshire folklore with the Fen entity and the Old Gods, but I feel they're somewhat marred by the need to dilute it with so many other things going on that each of the good ideas don't really get a chance to flourish properly. Haunted little girls wearing red anoraks (cf Don't Look Now [1973])and alcoholics turned pickaxe-wilding maniacs and dead women rising from bathtubs (cfThe Shining [1980]), are familiar to us but derivative and yet appear take centre stage over the much darker and more interesting manifestation of the Old God of the fens. The same goes for some of the characters, the most interesting one being a Mr Cuttle, who only appears briefly in the story when a lot more use could perhaps have been made of him.

It's not by any means a bad book, it's just way too jumbled for me and I feel would have benefited from a clearer focus on what the family were actually up against, rather than having it sometimes be "The Absence" of emotion that affected the protagonist's wife at the beginning of the story, or the mill house itself ("the house is trying to stop us from leaving") or whether it's "the Darkness" or the fen god, or whatever; some of these adversaries could have made stories in their own right (and some of them already have done, albeit by other writers).
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Having read "Through A Glass Darkly" and loved every second of it I wanted to gobble up everything ever written by this author. I suppose when your first impression of an author is so good your expectations are going to be set so high that you run the risk of being disappointed and unfortunately I was.

I wont go in to the story as many other reviewers have already done that. I liked the family and cared about the characters I just didnt find the ghost/evil spirit (whatever it was) that scary. The book started off very promising and I envisaged reading late in to the night but (and I hope I dont give too much away) when it got to the chapter with the religious preachers I started to have serious misgivings. The fate of the female was like something out of a bad Nightmare on Elm Street film and was more silly than scary.

One thing that really grated on me was the constant reference to "the absence" of characters. It is repeated again and again always in itallics and I wanted to shout out "yes, I understand the title". The beauty of TAGD was the sense of menace that overcame you and stayed with you whenever you turned the lights out but that just wasnt the case here.

This author is still incredibly talented and for anyone else this would have been 3 stars but I do not want to ber overly harsh just because my expectations were so high having read TAGD first. I will still read anything else by him and look forwards to a return to form.
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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2011
I loved "Through a Glass Darkly", the debut novel by Bill Hussey, but his second is even better. This horror novel is about the Nightingale family, two sons, Joe and Bobby and their father Richard, who are all suffering in their own ways after the tragic death of Janet, the boys mother and Richards wife. Janet was killed after the car being driven by her eldest son Joe, veered off the road has he tried to avoid a fallen tree blocking his way. Joe is suffering terrible guilt and blames himself for the death of his mother. Seven months after the crash, the Nightingales learn that they have come to inherit a property from a distant relative, reclusive Muriel Sutton. This property known as Daecher's Mill is in the lonely Lincolnshire Fens and it has a dark, disturbing history, which we gradually get to know as the tale progresses and events soon take on a terrifying turn. This novel is a suberb well crafted tale that reaches out and draws the reader in, Bill Hussey writes with an assured touch that is enchanting and gradually builds up into a haunting, menace filled tale of terror. Bill Hussey is a name to watch in my opinion and I would recommend him to anyone who loves well written horror. Shiveringly good entertainment.
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VINE VOICEon 18 March 2010
If I had a penny for every horror book about an evil spirit in the form of a female child with long hair (no spoilers) I would be far better off. Hussey's tale has a few scenes which will make your skin crawl, however 'The Absence' is a story everyone has read before. The family which the plot centres around discover an unknown family history, an approach favoured by John Saul, although the literary style here is quite different. The chracters are well described and the 'extra characters' are not just there as fodder, which is refreshing. There are some decent twists and some nods to classic tales of the genre, suggesting that Hussey may be one to watch out for. The reliance of dream sequences and flashbacks makes 'The Absence' feel disjointed at times, a sloppy way to create shocks rather than subtlely buiding tension. Overall this one is good enough to read once, although it's not neceessarily a keeper.
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on 30 August 2012
An effective horror novel with some genuine creepy moments and an excellent atmosphere. Bill Hussey has really captured the location around the Fens and it adds nicely to the overall book.

The only downside for me was the end of the novel, but this is often the issue with horror novels, it just felt a bit functional. There is some run of the mill ghost story mechanics at work in the book but enough genuine, creepy and shocking moments to make it stand out from the crowd.

Ordered Bill Hussey's first book and I am looking forward to reading, he is certainly a great find and could be a big writer in the future. Highly recommended if this is your type of novel and I hope he has a third novel on the way soon.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2009
Once again plumbing the depths of folklore, Bill Hussey crafts another winner with "The Absence". As with "Through A Glass Darkly," Hussey's prose is lyrical and flowing, but "The Absence" moves at a quicker pace than its predecessor. It's story doesn't lose any strength, however, and in many ways is more poignant: it's hard to pin down the ultimate villain. That's not to say there's no resolution, but rather to highlight one of its key themes: there's darkness in everyone, and though we fight it as best we can, often it consumes us in the end.

Seven months ago, the Nightingale family suffered the worst tragedy a family can endure: the loss of a beloved parent, Janet Nightingale - mother and wife. Worse yet, it happened in a car accident in which the eldest son Joe was driving. Joe believes he's responsible for his mother's death, but he carries his burden silently, alone.

Richard Nightingale grieves for the loss of his wife, but really - he lost Janet long ago. An alcoholic carrying on a four year affair, Richard lost Janet to something he cannot define or understand, and worst of all, he can never tell Joe or his youngest son Bobby. To them, he's an uncaring, alcoholic father who's been cheating on their mother. Bobby struggles with strange desires he can't accept, and like his brother and father, they limp along on their separate, solitary paths.

They're disconnected, dysfunctional, and falling away from each other: the perfect targets for evil. There's a secret buried in Janet's past, and it comes for them when they're willed a mill house and summer home from an unknown, distant relative. For Richard, it's a last chance to try and save his family. They pack up and travel to the countryside to spend the summer at Daecher's Mill restoring the house, as well as themselves. However, something ancient and malevolent awaits them in the mill's wet shadows. It knows their secrets and savors their fears. Before the end, it will show them their worst nightmares come true.

"The Absence" brims with raw, unbridled emotion. As in his first novel, Hussy's narrative is rich, vivid, and engaging. The domestic strife of the Nightingales is real and troubling, and when mixed with Hussey's keen knowledge of myth and folklore, an engrossing story is born. There is hope here, but also the foreboding sense that a dark destiny awaits the Nightingales, one they can't escape without dread sacrifice. The only question is: who will pay?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Joe Nightingale is a young man haunted by the car accident which killed his mother. It was an accident, but he was the one driving, and he watched his mother die before him. Bobby Nightingale is racked by guilt when he turns his back on a friend, who goes on to commit suicide. He's also battling a drug addiction, and a rather nasty pusher. Richard Nightingale is their father, the one person who should helping them both.. but Richard is an alcoholic, tormented by his own problems.

Hence the stage is set for Bill's second book, The Absence. There are many layers of horror laid out here for the reader in this one. The family discover that they have inherited a mill house, and the reader is quickly shown some of it's history, which makes for some rather gruesome and gory scenes.

It is this `over-description' which has put me off reading most horror books during recent years, so I was glad to find that the book doesn't depend on them. There is just enough to please most fans of the genre, but Bill also offers so much more. He draws on existing folk lore, and twists it into the tale, making it into something much more.

Of course, the horror in the book extends to the individuals within the family, and their battles to deal with their own issues, and with each other. None are particularly likeable, although Joe is the easiest to understand, but that doesn't stop you being involved. I was just as interested in the resolutions to their problems as I was in the dealings with the horror aspects.

The only thing I wasn't sure about was the Epilogue - for those of you who have read, without giving anything away, do you think it was needed?

Overall, this is a book which has more depth to it than some other horror writers manage. I hope to pick up Bill's earlier book, Through a Glass, Darkly, as well as any future offerings.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
When Joe Nightingale drove through a storm, too fast in a show-off car, the resulting accident killed his mother. The guilt would craze any normal young man and drive his surviving family into paroxysms. Yet, worse was to come. Joe wasn't as normal as he thought, and neither was his mother. The novel spirals into the unknown with each chapter involving the reader with clever plotting,

Bill Hussey's debut novel, Through A Glass, Darkly, impressed me with its twisted `alchemy of thought' and noir ghostly storytelling. There is a link via the mention of Crow Haven between the two books though each stands alone as noir ghost novels.

My wife has mystified me by being able to sit in a chair and her gaze seems to focus on a spot behind me. When asked, she admits to looking at and thinking about nothing. I wonder if Bill Hussey knows her. However, in The Absence, this affectation is deeper and more worrying for Richard, Joe's father. Many years prior to her fatal accident, Richard's wife seemed absent, as if her soul had been taken. It's only when both Joe, his girlfriend, his brother, and Richard investigate their past and find that apparent unconnected events were probably engineered that we find out what really happened - probably.

The horror element is unusual and cleverly mysterious. There is blood and gore, scariness and shock, but not as in traditional horror or ghost stories. Hussey is a master of scene setting so when the action moves to a ruined water mill in the Fens you are there. From interesting industrial archaeology you are thrown into the impossibility of the broken wheel turning, and gears grinding. From inside the mill, but also making her appearance when and where least expected, a demonic spirit strikes terror into those who sees her. She cannot be ignored because as the Tiddy-Mun bog spirit, she is the key to the whole mystery. While in traditional Lincolnshire folklore the Tiddy-Mun is the spirit of a withered old man, who controlled the fenland floods, Hussey warps the spirit, makes it more believable in a ghastly way.

Bill Hussey's writing style pleases as it teases. Phrases I wish I'd written include: `...withered bluebells teetered on the verge of the great horticultural hereafter.' `The (overweight) lawyer sat, and for the first time in his life, Richard felt sympathy for a chair.'
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2009
A haunting, poignant ghost story. A thriller of family conflict and heartbreaking tragedy. This is so much deeper, so much richer, than the average horror novel. The layers include a rich mythology, complex relationships and an atmosphere so tense that, by the end of the book, my fingernails had gouged through the cover! All this coupled with scenes of true terror - watch out for the resurrected baby! - combine to produce one of the most memorable books I have ever read. Sarah Pinbourgh has called Bill Hussey 'the new Clive Barker' but I would compare this book to another great horror master -

'The Absence' is `The Shining' for a new generation.
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