The winner of the Antonio de Macedo award from last year is a book by a new writer, Pedro Lucas Martins. It is a slow paced horror story, recalling more classic works within the genre. The story develops between the thin border of madness and supernatural, giving away just enough details from both sides of the border to seed doubt along all the romance. The narrative is driven by several horror elements, planted to deliver an unsettling feeling.
The story happens within a closed space. Lazaro is at home for Christmas after spending two years in psych ward. He is clearly weak. Both physically and psychologically. He stays in bed, interacting only with his wife, and only to take his medicine. He is afraid. He dreads the return of the episodes that took him to the hospital – a fear that is fuelled by the new paintings hanging in his bedroom walls.
While Lazaro’s son is anxious (he doesn’t remember his father from before the internment), his wife swings between different moods. She is relieved with Lazaro’s return but fears the lost of her independence. Lazaro is an authoritarian figure that expects his wife to be dutiful and submissive. On the other hand, the housekeeper never liked the child that is now her boss and remains detached from the changes in the household.
Past episodes are disclosed between present ones. Lazaro had a difficult relationship with his parents. Mainly with his father. He left home when he was young, only to return after his father’s death. But slowly, Lazaro recalls the episode that triggered the psychological break.
The combination of these several elements makes this book a very positive surprise. Being the first book by a new author I was not expecting such a balanced work in horror – it is a genre where you can easily derail to gore.