Bite-sized gothic tales are appropriate for light summer reading lists, as long as you like things dark and twisty all year round as I do. Before you jump into warmer water, dip your toe in the cold lake and mystery surrounding Lacrimore by S.J. Costello.
A medium named Sivre travels across the lake to a desolate and forgotten house named Lacrimore. When she arrives at the door, Sivre discovers that the man she is supposed to perform funeral rights for is still very much alive. With boats back to the mainland running scarce, Sivre decides to stay at the foreboding home until she can properly carry out her duties. The house and its inhabitants are a dreary bunch, and Sivre will be forced to confront her beliefs as the house seeks an opportunity to expand its power to anyone willing to listen.
With its small page count, Lacrimore keeps a quick pace so its story can be told in its entirety. We don’t get to learn too much about our characters, especially the supporting characters who feel like blips on my radar after keeping my focus on the main three—Sivre, Lalichai, and Vandorus. This is a plot-driven story that delivers a lot within its ~180 pages, but I was eager to learn more about the epidemic that set the stage and the darkness clinging to the decrepit house.
Lacrimore is the first book I’ve read where the content and themes feel shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the story, the mainland was ravaged by an epidemic that the three main characters were involved in via their work as doctors or a medium. All three characters were changed by the role they played and it’s interesting to see how they come away from such a horrific event. What I enjoyed the most though was Costello’s commentary on how tragedy creates an abundance of nameless and forgotten people. Lacrimore on its desolate little island became the dumping ground for the sick, and so many were disconnected from the world and sent away to die. Costello treats the ones who survived as a forgotten group as well. They are alive but on the other side of a traumatic experience where some find themselves cast out from society and others suffering alone in their unresolved pain.
I want to point out the disorienting perspective shifts in this book because it really adds to the creepy atmosphere at Lacrimore. As the story changed from moment to moment between characters without any clear delineation, it felt like the house was peaking into its own corridors to check on its inhabitants. It popped in to spy on Sivre holed up in her room, then shifted to Fel wandering the damp underground, then quickly over to Vandorous who is pouring over his books. It took a while to get used to the abruptness of it all, but I started to dig the shifts because it felt like the house had eyes everywhere. No place in the house felt safe, and I was forced to watch the characters navigate inside its bones.
Lacrimore is a nice way to get a dose of darkness without fully immersing yourself in a big mystery. S.J. Costello provides us with a neat, little horror story that can be easily enjoyed in one sitting so as to not fully blot out the summer sun.
Rating: Lacrimore – 7.0/10