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The Magic Cottage
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Herbert's 12th novel is a minor effort about a young couple, Midge and Mike (she's an artist and children's book writer; he's a rock musician) who buy an idyllic country home, christened Gramarye (``magic'' in old English) by a former owner. Gradually they find that Gramarye is the focus of supernatural energies, and that they themselves are sometimes the media through which these energies work. The house at first seems lovely and warm but takes on a sinister mood as cracks develop in the stone, moisture and mildew crawl up the walls, and bats multiply in the attic. Complicating the picture is the presence of a local cult, led by an Aleister Crowley type, which desperately wishes to gain control of Gramarye and its forces. A few creepy moments spike the generally lethargic pace of the novel. A veteran horror writer and bestseller in England, Herbert here writes like a noviceeverything spelled out, one-dimensional characterizations, no brevity, no wit; very occasionally diverting. Troll Book Club alternate. (September 14)

Mike and Midge, an artistic young couple, decide to leave London and embark on a search for a country house. Midge is drawn to a cottage formerly owned by an eccentric old woman, and peculiar things start happening: falling to pieces at first viewing, the cottage is perfect when carpenters come; wild animals scamper through without fear; members of a religious cult need verbal invitation to cross the threshold. The book intriguingly implies that there is no good or bad magic, it's all in how it is used. However, a fairly interesting story is marred by unlikeable, unbelievable characters and an over-explanatory style. And Mike's ``little did I know'' narrative removes most of the suspense and mystery. A slow-moving, not very frightening horror story by the author of The Rats , The Fog , and Moon . A.M.B. Amantia, Population Crisis Committee Lib., Washington, D.C.

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