My rating: 5 of 5 stars
CAST A COLD EYE preys on my mind. I first read it from our local library when it came out and it gave me nightmares. Then I found a 1st Edition hardcover of it in a book shop in Inverness, where it was stacked by accident in a shelf of Scottish hardcover crime books. I bought it, read it again, and got more nightmares.
There’s something going on in these pages that keys directly into my psyche. I think it’s a Celtic thing, and small towns where old men mutter secrets to each other in smoky bars while someone in the background sings the old songs. I know a bit about that kind of place. And so did Alan Ryan, a wonderful writer taken from us too soon.
He spoke in interviews of how he didn’t spend much time on research, but went for feel and gut instinct in writing it, and in doing so, I think he too tapped into something primal about blood, and kin, and community.
It’s a book with heart and soul, wearing both on its sleeve. Sure, it gets melodramatic in places, but in others there’s a deft handling of creeping dread, and of how the supernatural might creep into a world view otherwise inimical to it.
I’ve found that not many of my supernatural fiction writing buddies have read this one — it seems to have gone under the radar back in the day, and been largely ignored. Which is a great shame, as it’s a great ghost story, a fine piece of writing, and a lovely examination of a way of life that’s disappearing fast. Hopefully the recent Valancourt edition means more people are finding it.
I love it…even if it still gives me nightmares.