Fall, Leaves, Fall
Fall, Leaves, Fall begins entirely mundanely, on a wet, gray day, on a bus into the small English town of Cletherwood. James Bridge, let go from his latest job, is going back after twenty years to where all his nightmares play. He’s going home, despite the memories, seeking refuge, with nowhere else to go. The Romans thought that the area around Cletherwood was haunted by malign spirits. As far as James is concerned, that may well be true – but his own ghosts are much more recent.
Mike Driver’s use of characterisation in Fall, Leaves, Fall is outstanding. James is damaged, neurotic, and more than slightly unstable, but he’s also a survivor, and his first-person narration is peppered with small, humanising touches. We’ve all known someone a little bit like James, and the authenticity of that character brings the events unfolding in the plot onto a much more personal level, all of it framed in the wet dreariness of an English town in early winter. The horror elements are drawn in via memories, dreams, and flashbacks, leaving the reader to wonder whether the events are real, or figments of James’s imagination. The mystery is also well done, the first person allowing the author to leave the final twist to be as much a surprise to the reader as to James.