A Modern Gothic Thriller

But it’s a brave old house, Hugh.
And the name is Gaelic, not English:
‘fear’ is spelled ‘fir’ or ‘fhir,’
sometimes, and it means ‘man.’
Old House of Fear is Old House of Man.

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey meets John Buchan.  (Not exactly: Northanger is a parody of Gothic novels. But I have an extremely limited supply of Gothic references.)  Russell Kirk’s  Old House of Fear, set on an island in the Outer Hebrides (Scotland) has all the necessary ingredients for a modern Gothic thriller: a Scottish castle, mist, mysteries, death, secrets, romance, a dying octogenarian, a beautiful maiden, an evil tyrant physician, and, of course, a brave daring hero who rescues the maiden.        

Kirk does an excellent job of pacing this page-turner.  I admit to being late to work one morning because I had to know what happened next.  Hugh Logan, our hero, reminds me of Buchan’s spy, Richard Hannay: intelligent, shrewd, tough, daring; an excellent foe for the evil Dr. Edmund JackmanMary MacAskival, the twenty-year-old captive of Dr. Jackman, is spunky, steady, fierce, spritely, loyal. She is a girl with gumption.

Old House is well-written and a clean Gothic: the thrill of the chase minus vampires, werewolves, sex, demons and skeletons.  
Time Magazine’s 1961 review



7 thoughts on “A Modern Gothic Thriller

  1. Was it author Helene Hanff whose guideline it was only to read *old* books, ones whose author is no longer living?  That puts Kirk in fine company, and hopefully a revival.I’m so glad you linked to the Time Magazine review, too.  I’ve been reading the Imaginative Conservative website, whose author is linking to old reviews of his book, The Conservative Mind.  There really is a treasure trove of books out there not to be ignored.  Thanks for highlighting this one!

  2. I am somehow very surprised to see you read a book of this genre! It doesn’t seem like you at all. So I’m curious as to how you came upon this book and decided to read it. Sounds good–but these kinds of books give me bad dreams. I’ll take your word for it 

  3. You’ve reviewed one of my favorite books – and the book that first introduced me to Russell Kirk!  It’s the only fiction book of his I’ve ever read, but I read it the day I was in labor with my firstborn so I think because of that association it’s stuck with me.

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