The Loney

The Loney

by Andrew Michael Hurley


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Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 
A Best Book of the Year, London Times and Daily Mail
An Exceptional Novel, Sunday Times
Best Book of the Year, British Book Industry Awards
A Best Summer Book, Publishers Weekly
“The terrors of this novel feel timeless . . . There are abominations here, and miracles.”—New York Times Book Review
“An amazing piece of fiction.”—Stephen King

“Completely terrifying.”—Paula Hawkins

“Vibrantly written.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Stunning” —Jeff VanderMeer

When Smith was a boy, he and his family went on an Easter pilgrimage with their local parish to the Loney, a bleak stretch of the English coastline, to visit an ancient shrine, in search of healing for Smith’s disabled brother. But the locals were none too pleased to welcome them, and the two brothers soon became entangled in a troubling morass of dangerous rituals. For years after, Smith carries the burden of what happened that spring. And when he hears that the body of a young child has been found during a storm at the Loney, he’s forced to reckon with his darkest secrets, no matter the cost. “The masterpiece by which Hurley will enter the Guild of the Gothic” (Guardian), The Loney marks the arrival of a remarkable new talent.
“Fans of Shirley Jackson are sure to savor . . . Tight, suspenseful writing makes this masterful novel unsettling in the most compelling way.”—Washington Post


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544947191
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/11/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 490,592
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

ANDREW MICHAEL HURLEY lives in Lancashire, England, where he teaches English literature and creative writing. He has published two short story collections. The Loney won the 2015 Costa First Novel Award and will be published in sixteen territories.

Read an Excerpt

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.’
— Matthew 9:32–34

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— W. B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’

It had certainly been a wild end to the autumn. On the Heath a gale stripped the glorious blaze of colour from Kenwood to Parliament Hill in a matter of hours, leaving several old oaks and beeches dead. Mist and silence followed and then, after a few days, there was only the smell of rotting and bonfires.

I spent so long there with my notebook one afternoon noting down all that had fallen that I missed my session with Doctor Baxter. He told me not to worry. About the appointment or the trees. Both he and Nature would recover. Things were never as bad as they seemed.

I suppose he was right in a way. We’d been let off lightly. In the north, train lines had been submerged and whole villages swamped by brown river water. There had been pictures of folk bailing out their living rooms, dead cattle floating down an A road. Then, latterly, the news about the sudden landslide on Coldbarrow, and the baby they’d found tumbled down with the old house at the foot of the cliffs.

Coldbarrow. There was a name I hadn’t heard for a long time. Not for thirty years. No one I knew mentioned it any more and I’d tried very hard to forget it myself. But I suppose I always knew that what happened there wouldn’t stay hidden forever, no matter how much I wanted it to.

I lay down on my bed and thought about calling Hanny, wondering if he too had seen the news and whether it meant anything to him. I’d never really asked him what he remembered about the place. But what I would say, where I would begin, I didn’t know. And in any case he was a difficult man to get hold of. The church kept him so busy that he was always out ministering to the old and infirm or fulfilling his duties to one committee or another. I could hardly leave a message, not about this.

His book was on the shelf with the old paperbacks I’d been meaning to donate to the charity shop for years. I took it down and ran my finger over the embossed lettering of the title and then looked at the back cover. Hanny and Caroline in matching white shirts and the two boys, Michael and Peter, grinning and freckled, enclosed in their parents’ arms. The happy family of Pastor Andrew Smith.

The book had been published almost a decade ago now and the boys had grown up — Michael was starting in the upper sixth at Cardinal Hume and Peter was in his final year at Corpus Christi — but Hanny and Caroline looked much the same then as they did now. Youthful, settled, in love.

I went to put the book back on the shelf and noticed that there were some newspaper cuttings inside the dust jacket. Hanny visiting a hospice in Guildford. A review of his book in the Evening Standard. The Guardian interview that had really thrust him into the limelight. And the clipping from an American evangelical magazine when he’d gone over to do the Southern university circuit.

The success of My Second Life with God had taken everyone by surprise, not least Hanny himself. It was one of those books that — how did they put it in the paper? — captured the imagination, summed up the zeitgeist. That kind of thing. I suppose there must have been something in it that people liked. It had bounced around the top twenty of the bestsellers list for months and made his publisher a small fortune.

Everyone had heard of Pastor Smith even if they hadn’t read his book. And now, with the news from Coldbarrow, it seemed likely that they would be hearing of him again unless I got everything down on paper and struck the first blow, so to speak.
If it had another name, I never knew, but the locals called it the Loney — that strange nowhere between the Wyre and the Lune where Hanny and I went every Easter time with Mummer, Farther, Mr and Mrs Belderboss and Father Wilfred, the parish priest. It was our week of penitence and prayer in which we would make our confessions, visit Saint Anne’s shrine, and look for God in the emerging springtime, that, when it came, was hardly a spring at all; nothing so vibrant and effusive. It was more the soggy afterbirth of winter.
Dull and featureless it may have looked, but the Loney was a dangerous place. A wild and useless length of English coastline. A dead mouth of a bay that filled and emptied twice a day and made Coldbarrow — a desolate spit of land a mile off the coast — into an island. The tides could come in quicker than a horse could run and every year a few people drowned. Unlucky fishermen were blown off course and ran aground. Opportunist cocklepickers, ignorant of what they were dealing with, drove their trucks onto the sands at low tide and washed up weeks later with green faces and skin like lint.

Sometimes these tragedies made the news, but there was such an inevitability about the Loney’s cruelty that more often than not these souls went unremembered to join the countless others that had perished there over the centuries in trying to tame the place. The evidence of old industry was everywhere: breakwaters had been mashed to gravel by storms, jetties abandoned in the sludge and all that remained of the old causeway to Coldbarrow was a line of rotten black posts that gradually disappeared under the mud. And there were other, more mysterious structures — remnants of jerry-built shacks where they had once gutted mackerel for the markets inland, beacons with rusting fire-braces, the stump of a wooden lighthouse on the headland that had guided sailors and shepherds through the fickle shift of the sands.

But it was impossible to truly know the Loney. It changed with each influx and retreat of water and the neap tides would reveal the skeletons of those who thought they had read the place well enough to escape its insidious currents. There were animals, people sometimes, the remains of both once — a drover and his sheep cut off and drowned on the old crossing from Cumbria. And now, since their death, for a century or more, the Loney had been pushing their bones back inland, as if it were proving a point.
No one with any knowledge of the place ever went near the water. No one apart from us and Billy Tapper that is.

Billy was a local drunk. Everyone knew him. His fall from grace to failure was fixed like the weather into the mythology of the place, and he was nothing short of a gift to people like Mummer and Father Wilfred who used him as shorthand for what drink could do to a man. Billy Tapper wasn’t a person, but a punishment.

Legend had it that he had been a music teacher at a boys’ grammar school, or the head of a girls’ school in Scotland, or down south, or in Hull, somewhere, anywhere. His history varied from person to person, but that the drink had sent him mad was universally accepted and there were any number of stories about his eccentricities. He lived in a cave. He had killed someone in Whitehaven with a hammer. He had a daughter somewhere. He thought that collecting certain combinations of stones and shells made him invisible and would often stagger into the Bell and Anchor in Little Hagby, his pockets chinking with shingle, and try to drink from other people’s glasses, thinking that they couldn’t see him. Hence the dented nose.

I wasn’t sure how much of it was true, but it didn’t matter. Once you’d seen Billy Tapper, anything they said about him seemed possible.

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The Loney 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't even want to give this the one star, but i had to. I read this book about nothing. Unless you are super into Catholicism, stay away. Steven king rarely steers me wrong, but this was a dud.
Barnseys_Books More than 1 year ago
This book is a strange one to categorise. Officially it's in the 'horror' genre but unofficially it's anything but. Yes, it's decidedly creepy and wonderfully atmospheric but horror it isn't. What you get is an intelligent and beautifully written story about the bond between two brothers; one mute and the other his protector. The Loney is a Costa Best First Novel Award winner and Book of the Year at the 2016 British Book Industry Awards. For me it was a slow burner; not knowing quite what to expect or where the story was going but feeling compelled to see where it lead me. I thought it was an accomplished piece of writing with excellent characterisation and a brooding storyline that slowly simmers and pulls you in.
Book_and_recipe_Examiner More than 1 year ago
A very astute Catholic boy loves to play soldiers and other adventure games with his mute brother Hanny. But the young boys’ wanderings along dangerous coastal tides and discovery of a rifle will lead to such monstrosities (especially in the surrounding woods one night), that Hanny will suppress the memories as an adult, leaving only his brother, Smith, to tell their horrifying story. Their mother, a devout Catholic, is convinced that their yearly Easter trips to the shrine of Saint Anne in the deep Irish country will one day bring about Hanny’s healing, as long as they all fast long enough and pray hard enough. But during this last trip to the derelict, ominous house in Coldbarrow, the first time for the newly-appointed priest Father Bernard, they encounter three menacing locals and a violent dog. The caretaker of the home, who is more involved than he will speak of, warns the group repeatedly to avoid the dangerous men and especially not to seek them out or allow them into the house, no matter what they offer.The Loney is a chilling revelation of the truths people accept, and of the sinister, violent sacrifices people make in desperation. For discussion questions, similar readings, and a themed recipe of Citrus Almond Cupcake with Orange Almond Frosting, visit
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a great read. The religious backdrop is a essential part of the narrative and you definately don't need to be Catholic to follow the story. Well drawn characters and a unique and imaginative story about the bonds of brotherhood.
BrandieC More than 1 year ago
How to describe Andrew Michael Hurley's The Loney? Some of the adjectives which spring to mind are gothic, eerie, assured, suspenseful, and sinister. The bulk of the book is an extended flashback to a trip the narrator and his mute and intellectually disabled brother Hanny took with Mummer, Farther, their priest, and several fellow parishioners to a creepy house in Lancashire known as Moorings. This particular trip was the last in a series of annual pilgrimages to a shrine at which Mummer believes Hanny will miraculously become "normal." The flashback is prompted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton at Coldbarrow, a second creepy house located not far from Moorings. This opening is much more jolting to the reader than it sounds, because when Hanny is introduced on the first page, he is a respected pastor, author, husband, and father. How he was "cured" is the central mystery of the novel. Was it a miracle from God, as Hanny's bestselling My Second Life with God suggests? Or was it the result of a darker bargain? It is this tension between Mummer's version of Christianity and the ominous atmosphere at Moorings which gives The Loney its power, although Hurley's description of both locations provides a clue: "St. Jude's [the Catholic church attended by the narrator's family in London] was a monstrosity. . . . From the outside it was imposing and gloomy and the thick, hexagonal spire gave it the look of a mill or factory. Indeed, it seemed purpose-built in the same sort of way, with each architectural component carefully designed to churn out obedience, faith or hope in units per week according to demand. . . . I often thought there was too much time there [the Loney]. That the place was sick with it. Haunted by it. Time didn’t leak away as it should. There was nowhere for it to go and no modernity to hurry it along. It collected as the black water did on the marshes and remained and stagnated in the same way." One thing that really struck me was Hurley's selection of names for his places and characters. Take "Mummer," for instance. I am used to the British referring to their mothers as "Mum," but I had never seen "Mummer" used as a name before. A mummer, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "[a]n actor in a traditional masked mime." Is Mummer's faith an act? What might she be hiding behind that mask? The insular village in which she grew up, with its own language and traditions, was "within spitting distance" of Moorings, Coldbarrow, and the Loney, so perhaps her expectations of the shrine's healing power are not those of the traditional Catholic pilgrim. Nuances like these elevate The Loney above the other horror and mystery novels with which it might be shelved. I received a free copy of The Loney through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.