The title story in Mark Valentine's new collection from Zagava is a gentle tale of strange events on the borders of what we term normal life.
A man goes to a small rural community to curate a museum dedicated to a not-very-famous explorer. In his new home he becomes fascinated by the artefacts he now has in his care, particularly ones which bear odd carvings in what might be an unknown language. Then the narrator encounters a pleasant, eccentric woman engaged in taking rubbings in the church. It turns out that she is also trying to create a new Tarot specific to the odd Cornish village of Sancreed.
The setting of Sancreed is beautifully evoked, and the story relies on the Machenesque notion that some places are closer (in some dimension) to a higher truth than most. The revelation that the characters experience at the old 'rocket shed' on the westernmost tip of the peninsula is awesome in the old-fashioned sense, an epiphany that it may take them a lifetime to truly know. This is, in a way, a love story, emphasising that the greatest mysteries of life and time are always close at hand.
More from this running review soon. I've reached that point in the book where I slow down a bit because I don''t want to get to the end. But I'm definitely getting there, regardless...