Robert Irwin – an author and academic best known for The Arabian Nightmare – is back with his latest brainchild, a witty ghost story-cum-campus novel set in Oxford and St Andrews. Readers follow the aloof Lancelyn as he stumbles his way up the academic ladder, but not all is as it seems. Irwin’s prose is light and energetic, and it cuts through the stuffiness of the setting well. Despite being filled with a cast of caricatures (Bernard, clad in colourful waistcoats, often describes things as “popsy-wopsy,” “ballyhoo” and “corkers”), the small cast has depth.
Where The Runes Have Been Cast falters is when Irwin tries to introduce the paranormal, partly as a result of attempting to paint too many parallels with the stories of the greats. The references to Henry James and M.R James are a nice touch, but the threads don’t feel properly resolved, and as such, the references amount to little more than Irwin winking at his readers.
You could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re reading a ghost story at times, but this isn’t as big an issue as you might expect: The Runes Have Been Cast is another strong offering in which the snobbery ends up being scarier than the supernatural.
The Runes Have Been Cast, Robert Irwin (Dedalus)
Price: £9.99. Info: here
words ALEX PAYNE
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