Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley. New York: Harcourt. Copyright 2018, 294 pages, $26.

Devil's Day by Andrew HurleyDevil’s Day is a fall observance celebrated by a remote sheep-farming community called the Endlands located beside the English moors.  It commemorates a time of illness and natural disaster almost a century before that made the Endlanders believe that the Devil walked among them and that they were being persecuted by him for some misdeed.

Known as “the Owd Feller” by the locals, the Devil is believed to have killed 13 people that long-ago autumn through a combination of lung disease, fever, and prolonged blizzard conditions.  The sheep farmers and their kin began a tradition at that time that all stories or tall tales should begin with the Devil.

As the novel begins, John Pentecost is walking home with his young son Adam through the gathering dusk from a hunting expedition and starts to tell an autobiographical tale in which he describes past events that seem to have been touched by the Devil’s hand.  The tale begins with John’s return to his childhood home as a newlywed with his young bride Kat.

Kat is pregnant, and she and John have planned a long visit to the Endlands to help do farm work.  They want to be present for a tradition called the Gathering in which the sheep are brought down from grazing the Lancashire moors and back to the farms for the winter.  The couple’s visit takes a more permanent turn when the Gaffer, John’s elderly grandfather dies suddenly.  John and Kat must decide whether to stay and live permanently with John’s father, Dadda, who might not be able to maintain his rural sheep-farming lifestyle single-handed.

Complicating matters is John’s conflicted memories of a difficult childhood at the Endlands.   His mother died quite young and the bullies from the village school picked on him in a running rivalry between the farm children and the village children.  Some of that ill will persists to the present day.

Things go wrong during the Gathering and Kat experiences disquieting manifestations of evil.  Are her hallucinations real, are they delusional signs of hormonal disruption, or are some of the neighbors targeting the family based on past grudges?

“Devil’s Day” is a gothic gem of psychological suspense that drips with dread and the threat of impending disaster.  It reads like part crime novel and part morality fable in which the “sins of the fathers have been visited upon the children” in this small corner of the English countryside.

Author Andrew Hurley teaches English literature in Lancashire and his first book “The Loney” was a surprise bestseller and won the Debut Fiction Book of the Year Award in 2016 at the British Book Industry Awards.

Lisa Kobrin is the Reference Manager and Genealogy Librarian at the May Memorial Library.  She can be reached at lkobrin@alamancelibraries.org or (336) 229-3588.