The Loney is a literary horror novel that failed to horrify me. It describes a group of pilgrims travelling to St. Anne’s shrine in coastal England to cure Farther and Mummer Smith’s eldest son, Hanny, of mutism.
On the positive side, the sense of place and atmosphere was engrossing. I loved the setting of the book in what the pilgrims discover is an old Tuberculosis sanitarium. Also, the tension between the simplistic Catholic faith of the Smith family and the naturalistic superstitions of the locals was powerful. In the end, both traditions seemed cruel, more designed to torture Hanny than to cure him.
My big problem with The Loney is that, in the climactic scene, Hurley shies away from giving the reader a close view of the ritual that cured Hanny. Instead, Hanny’s brother, Tonto, steps out into the hallway, so that he cannot witness the violence of the final cure. This takes away from the real horror of the book.
Ultimately, I thought Hurley’s second book, Devil’s Day, was a better book.