Review: Midnight is a Lonely Place

When an ancient burial on an East Anglian beach is uncovered accidentally by a teenager, spirits of the buried are released to replay the trauma that led to their untimely deaths and seek revenge through possession of the teenager and her family, the book’s protagonist and her boyfriend. Neighbours and locals are drawn into the haunting which causes deaths, murder and injury in the modern time zone. As the book progresses the modern-day characters uncover that the burial was in fact a murder pit.

A Roman constable posted in Camulodunum (Colchester) with a young reluctant wife and their son settle down in the area and try to get on with the neighbouring British tribes. The young wife falls in love with a Trinovantes prince and a love triangle ensues which results with the Roman husband murdering the prince and his druid accomplices. His adulterous wife observes the treachery and commits suicide so she can die with her lover. The Roman lives on in revengeful triumph to survive Boudicca’s Trinovantean rampage against Roman rule in Colchester and is rewarded with land where the murder pit is buried in the marshes.

In modern times the sea has eroded the Roman time marshes and the burial pit is now under a sandy beach. The water uncovering the murdered bodies releases the spirits who latch on to the nearest human to draw energy (while draining the teenage girl and causing her to behave out of character).

Only in ghost stories do people act in silly ways! This book is no exception, in that the characters go to the beach at night in the middle of a snowy winter and get themselves engulfed in the Roman love triangle. They naturally don’t call the archaeologists or police which would be the obvious first thoughts of normal people upon discovering an ancient burial pit.

It’s a good story and educational about the history of the area, but several chapters are dedicated to the characters stupidity in wandering around in ones and twos on the beach, in the woods and snowy tracks, usually in the dark and pursued by vengeful ghosts and going out of their minds with fear, which got irritating to read. Also the book is written in the 1990s yet none of the characters owns a mobile phone, but the writer has a laptop which uses floppy disks. All the cars are old and on their last legs. The technology is a bit muddled. The phone lines get cut off in the bad weather and no one is able to call the ambulance, police or get help from neighbours without walking in the dark. The ghosts also manage to move a car from the cottage all the way on top of a dune surrounded by water on the beach. They leave earth and maggots and can damage paintings, move boxes and upset shelves of books. I think there might be a few plot holes or less plausible parts in the overall story.

My opinion is that in the modern-day love triangle neither of the men are good for the female protagonist!

In Colchester Castle Museum there is a tombstone of a Roman centurion. The Roman husband character, Marcus Severus Secundus in the book is based on this statue.


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