Every fall, I get an urge to read a good horror story. Preferably nothing gory, but rife with horrific oddities and chill-inducing moments. I’ll award bonus points if it’s got Lovecraftian intrigue and bizarre pseudo-history. And at the heart of it all, I want a good story.
The Fisherman by John Langan checks all of the boxes, draws a few new boxes I didn’t realize belonged on the quiz, and checks them for good measure. It’s creepy. It’s chilling. And it’s fantastic, in every sense of the word.
The story opens with a one-two punch. We meet Abe, and quickly learn that he lost his wife tragically. Abe meets Dan shortly into the novel, and Dan suffered an even more wrenching tragedy. They find comfort in the quiet routine of fishing together, because fishing is quiet, natural, harmless fun.
At some point, Dan suggests they fish Dutchman’s Creek up in the mountains of remote Pennsylvania. Their journey begins as a mild diversion from the mundane, veers into long-buried secrets and forbidden lore, and ends with a journey into the eye of madness.
The mundane was well written, and the climax is suitable epic, but its the skilled treatment of that forbidden lore that I found so captivating. The magic and evil of The Fisherman feels wholly unique while being rooted in our history and myth, and is so thematically on point I still shake my head and marvel at it.
Any quibbles I have are minor. There’s a too-convenient explanation for how Abe learned too many secrets in too-short a visit with a wary stranger. And Abe is by far the most eloquent and poetic traumatized, haunted widower ever. But when the worst complaint I can muster is “the writing is too well done for that narrator,” you know I’m nitpicking.
The book is excellent. I intended to make The Fisherman my October read, but I made the mistake of opening it in September, and I devoured the book in a couple of days. If you like supernatural horror, I recommend it without reservation.