Book review: The Haar by David Sodergren

The Haar by David Sodergren

Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Sodergren lives in Scotland with his wife Heather and his best friend, Boris the Pug.

Growing up, he was the kind of kid who collected rubber skeletons and lived for horror movies. Not much has changed since then.

Since the publication of his first novel, The Forgotten Island, he has written and published a further five novels, from slashers to gialli to folk horror to weird westerns. He is currently working on several more novels, including a trilogy of violent revenge stories to be published in 2022. 

Publisher: Paperbacks and Pugs (May 20, 2022) Print length: 220 Formats: ebook, paperback, hardback

Muriel Margaret McAuley was eighty-four years old the first time she saw a man turned inside-out by a sea monster. You might think it would bother a woman of her age, but, as Muriel was fond of saying, she had seen a lot in her eighty-four short years.

David Sodergren’s The Haar combines gruesome folk horror with a rather unusual romantic tale. The story takes place in Witchaven, a remote coastal village in Scotland where an American billionaire, Patrick Grant, wants to create a designer golf course. At first, the elderly villagers want to keep their beloved land, but Patrick doesn’t care. They’re nothing to him. 
His employees buy or force people to give up their property. Most of them do exactly this. But not Muriel McAuley. Her counteroffer is simple and elegant. “Double the offer and then shove it up your arse.”
A thick, freezing fog known as the haar descends from the sea and envelops the village, giving the setting an eerie atmosphere. The blurb promises things to get crazy and romantic. After Muriel rescues a bizarre creature made of ooze, the blurb keeps its promise. 
Muriel is a resilient and resourceful octogenarian deeply connected to the land. Her husband, Billy, has disappeared at sea and she misses him every day. Despite her age, she refuses to submit to the greedy and rich. Her unwavering determination is respectable and proves you can’t get everything by throwing money at it (although the cynic in me whispers that this is another fairy-tale element of the story).
As the story unfolds, it takes a bloody turn that will delight most horror fans. The violence is graphic and explosive; keep that in mind before picking up The Haar. Ultimately, though, it’s still a heartfelt story in which (dark) humor balances violence and horror. More intimate chapters balance out the occasional gore.
I enjoyed Muriel’s narration and development in the face of the unknown. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the villains. They were caricatures. It fits the story, but it really lacked nuance or subtlety.
If you have the stomach for it, get ready for a thrilling ride with this unique horror novel. The Haar is fast and sharp, with gripping twists and a finale that will leave you stunned and fulfilled.

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