Patrick McCabe (4 stars)

Winterwood (Bloomsbury)


Award-winning novelist Patrick McCabe is known for his darkly violent books which mine the disturbing underbelly of rural Ireland, a setting he knows well from his own upbringing. Winterwood is no exception, telling the story of Redmond Hatch who befriends grizzled old-timer Ned Strange when he returns to the backwater valley he was raised in. Their relationship has unforeseen repercussions for Hatch as his life falls apart and he struggles to keep a grip on reality.

Winterwood starts off almost jauntily, as Hatch recounts his successful life and loving family, but quickly descends into a nightmare where reality and morbid fantasy blur. McCabe handles the pace of his narrator’s decline beautifully, and eschews cheap thrills in favour of subtle hints, creating excruciating tension in the process. As the novel reaches a horrific denouement the reader is drawn inexorably into the terrible proceedings in a tale which is expertly-written but decidedly harrowing.

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