Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins in Alison Littlewood's latest chiller. Mad-doctor Nathaniel is obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston - but is she truly delusional? Or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered . . . ?
Haunted by his father's suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients' minds. Nathaniel's only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Adelina - Vita - Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions - but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible.
Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Vita, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results. Vita starts hearing voices, the way she used to - her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave - but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism . . . and a desperate need to escape.
Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of seances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Vita and save her.
But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded - whether of the body or the mind . . .
'[An] enjoyable excursion . . . gripping' The Sunday Times
Alison Littlewood is the author of A Cold Season, published by Jo Fletcher Books. The novel was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club, where it was described as "perfect reading for a dark winter's night." Her most recent novel, The Hidden People, has recently been published to critical acclaim. Alison's short stories have been picked for Best British Horror 2015, The Best Horror of the Year and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy 2013 and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 10. She also won the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for Short Fiction with her story The Dog's Home, published in The Spectral Book of Horror Stories. Alison lives with her partner Fergus in Yorkshire, England, in a house of creaking doors and crooked walls. You can talk to her on twitter @Ali L, see her on Facebook and visit her at www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk.