What RW says
A modern Gothic chiller, amusing, nightmarish and heartbreaking in equal quantities, and without any vampires at all!
Ankerita, a Tudor religious hermit, who was murdered in 1528 is freed from her 500 year sleep through the unintentional intervention of the modern world. She takes
on the life of the delinquent who has released her, and finds herself fighting to survive the 21st century. Her only
defense is to use the limited experience of the young body
she has stolen.
With strong psychic links to the past, Ankerita is able to see the restless shades of the dead, and is forced to intervene in their affairs, good or evil, allowing them to rest or otherwise.
A woman without identity attracts the attentions of police, drug dealers and people traffickers, and hers is a continual flight to remain ahead of capture, all the while struggling to prevent the body swap with its original owner, and thus her inevitable return to the grave. If that wasn’t sufficient, she is also plagued by the machinations of the demons determined to claim her unstable soul for their own.
She has no choice but to return to the other world, and be reunited with the husband she killed, and for which crime she was incarcerated. She eventually tracks the portal to a lonely stone circle, and attempts to contact him. The seasons move out of time as she weakens the links between present and past, and the process brings unexpected and shocking results.
What the Readers Say
"I was very impressed with this, the first book I have read by Robert Wingfield. I found the combination of humour and horror really entertaining,
but what most impressed me was that there is all the time a darker, emotive element to the story. These are strong moral and emotional undertones, which are
developed and kept in as a muted background theme until the grand finale. In this it reminded me of classic pieces of music; that may sound pretentious, but so it was.
The heroine is a fascinatingly complex character. Strong is the term that comes most to mind. This is no wimp who is looking for a man to rescue her. This is all the more fascinating, as she comes from a previous age. Ankerita is not her real name. In Tudor times, the woman, one of the gentry, killed her husband for abusing her, and his family avenged him by turning her into an anchoress, walled up in a cell to pray. Later, they gave her a terrible poison which paralyzed her. They then buried her alive.
Her soul remained suspended between this life and the next for centuries, gradually developing in power and determination to escape:
‘Recent visitors had reported unexplained mists, forming and dissolving in the doorways and broken buildings still standing. Recent visitors, if they had any sense, would tend to give the place a wide berth after sunset’.
Now, a couple of petty villains who are both contemptible and ridiculous – down to their names, Wayne and Tox, come to deface the ruin with graffiti. But Tox, unknown, to him, is psychic.
‘Wot, you usin’ words now stead of swearin’ all the time?’
‘Yeah, so? I don’t want dudes to think I’m thick’’
Ankerita, rises from the tomb, as beguiling as she was in life. Wayne runs. She creates the hermitage as it was, to draw Tox into dreams of stealing its wealth. Instead, she steals his body:
‘The cowl dropped away; Tox’s mouth fell open. The face that stared at him was not the lady; it was his own. His was the body in the prison. He screamed and tried to run. The buildings around him faded into airless black.’
Ankerita manages to transform his body into her old one, but a psychic bond remains between them. Tox is struggling to regain control of his body, and as ‘Anna’ sets off on a series of adventures in this strange modern world to which she must adjust – without an official identity or money – she must contend with this too.
She is both helped, and hindered, by a strange malevolent species of pet. Didiubas the Demon, who will help her at times – as long as she is up to mischief:
‘Me, a refugee from the dungeon dimensions, with no power in this world unless driven by malice, how can I get you out? That would be an act of kindness.’
There follows a series of wild, darkly comic adventures for Anna, suspended still to some extent between two worlds, able to see the ghostly inhabitants of the modern UK. She is revealed as determined to keep her hold on Tox’s body, but warm-hearted in her dealings with others, and singularly independent.
We follow her adventures as she works long shifts in a cheap hotel, where she meets a disinterested friend and a ghostly, amorous highwayman, through a spell with a debauched heavy metal rock band, through a spell in a desolate house with a group of homeless people, through a flirtation with a over zealous policeman, through fights with would-be rapists and slavers.
But finally Ankerita must face her destiny, which she cannot evade for too long; in fact, this modern day odyssey seems to be drawing her ever further towards it…
And here, there is a startling twist in the tale, which I never envisaged. Here, the emotional depths of the novel, kept, as I said before, muted in the background, comes out. For here, Anna’s love and hates and fears and hopes must all converge in one meeting.
I was very impressed with this and whole heartedly recommend it to all those love gothic with a humorous turn, and who cannot resist a strong heroine."