I really have to get better at making a note of where I find out about the books that I read, because I am pretty sure that I picked The Possessions of Doctor Forrest up because it was mentioned in someone else’s blog – possibly to do with the Edinburgh book festival? Sadly I am too lazy to go and look so we shall just have to leave this as one of those little mysteries that life throws at us and I must remember to have my notebook near me when blog reading.

I do remember that wherever I found it about it my interest was captured by the description of this as a Gothic novel; in fact, the quote from David Peace on the front cover states quite categorically that this book

drags the gothic novel kicking and screaming into this new century

So I don’t think it’s giving too much away to say that this novel owes a lot to stories such as Jekyll & Hyde and Faust, but brings quite a bit of its own style to the genre. And I’m right about what I’ve said about not giving too much away because oh look, there on the back cover blurb it talks about disappearances, diabolical bargains and transformations.

There are three medical men of Scottish background by birth or upbringing who have been friends since school. Hartford s a psychiatrist, Lochran a paediatric surgeon and Forrest, a cosmetic surgeon. They are all more or less discontented with their lot despite being on the surface wealthy and successful in their chosen fields. But Forrest is the most discontented of all, and when he disappears he sets off a chain of bizarre, puzzling and unpleasant events.

I have been  mulling my feelings about this novel over for a good couple of weeks since I finished reading it. I liked the structure of the book which has the story told through the diaries of Hartford and Lochran; we see the events unfolding from their individual viewpoints and are party to what they do not share with each other. Their two separate accounts are interspersed with the odd contribution from a few minor characters, giving us more of an idea of what’s going on than they could possibly have themselves.

And then of course we have the “confession” of Forrest himself.

I can’t say that I loved this book; I enjoyed the puzzle, I wanted to know what happened at the end, I enjoyed much of the writing but I didn’t feel involved. This is almost entirely because I didn’t much like any of the characters; even when awful things were happening to and around them I felt very detached, not really caring about them, just wanting to know what the secret was.

So, interesting and well written but rather cold for a book which deals with strong passions. Glad I gave it a go, not sure that I would read it again. But a good fit for RIP VI, for which this was my second read.

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