Horrors: The Man in the Moss, by Phil Rickman

The Man in the MossBridelow Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Things are about to change in the ancient village of Bridelow, in western England. Folks here are Christian, but have always adhered to their Celtic roots, and the Mother holds as much power here as the Christ. First, the brewery, producer of Bridelow Black, the famous local bitter, is sold, throwing most of the locals out of work. Then the Anglican priest, who well understands the need to coexist in this place, falls ill, and is replaced by a born again preacher who views Bridelow as an evil, pagan, abomination of a place. The final blow connects when an ancient bog body is discovered in the Moss, the huge peat bog through which the village is accessed. Revered wise woman, Ma Wagstaff, knows something’s afoot, and the signals are not beneficent. Little does she realize…..

There are many interesting and colorful characters in Man, just as there are in all of Rickman’s work. The three central ones are Moira Cairns, a folk singer, Matt Castle, the Celtic musician who gave Moira her start, and Mungo Macbeth (really!), an American film maker in search of his roots. They will all play crucial roles in a diabolical plot planned by Bridelow’s “bad boy”, exiled years ago but dying to return.

Rickman’s strengths lie in his ability to conjure a sense of time, place, and psyche. His shadings and subtleties are dense and evocative, his characters real and true, whether good or evil. The Man in the Moss is categorized as horror, but it is much, much more.

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