Greylock, by Paula Cappa (2016)

GreenockReview by Jaq D Hawkins.

As far as Horror elements are concerned, this book is a slow boiler, but the payoff got more interesting as it went along. A composer wants to go record whale sounds to form the basis of his next symphony. His estranged wife doesn’t want him to go and his affair with another woman makes her threaten to expose his deepest secret, that he didn’t actually write the piece of music that he is most famed for. Discovering the origin of that music is an important plot point.

It’s a very atmospheric story that takes the reader into the inner sanctum of classical music and ballet. Alexie, the composer, struggles to compose and perform at the level of his father – a more famous composer – and always seems to fall a little short, until the composition he finds in an old trunk enchants his audience. Unfortunately, his wife knows that he didn’t write it and tries to use it as blackmail to keep him from leaving her.

Much of the story reads like a crime drama where we get to know the characters and their lives in the worlds of music and dance. Then the mystery of a murder becomes center focus, but by then some of the horror elements are starting to come in and there were some pretty scary moments over things that might seem commonplace, yet were out of place in context.

Strange things happen to the people closest to Alexie, especially those who know his secret or the woman he has begun seeing. He becomes a suspect in the murder case, yet seems mostly unconcerned about it. His focus is always on the music and his ambitions.

The writing was good in this and there were times when I wasn’t sure if Alexie might be guilty of the murder as well as a scary moment or two. It’s a basic deal with the devil sort of plot, only the real horror of it is that Alexie didn’t knowingly enter into any agreement. The music is behind everything. As someone who enjoys classical music, I found the use of music as almost a character in its own right very creative and interesting.

The references to Russian folklore and evil spirits was also fascinating, adding a cultural angle. There were a few surprise reveals in the latter half of the book that did catch me by surprise, though I did guess the twist at the end a little in advance. There was just a little too much gratuitous swearing that I didn’t feel was necessary and the sex scene was a little more graphic than is justified by the plot, but these things were easy to overlook in the overall enjoyment of the story.

I thought the falcon was a nice touch. It gave me one of those scary moments than earned the Horror category, although overall there wasn’t much time spent on scary scenes. From a Horror perspective the best part was the price required of Alexie and whether he would be able to escape the debt he never agreed to.

4 out of 5 stars for very effective writing.