Arcadia is a spare land, heavy with silence and distance, a misfit place.
In that space author Christian Fennell places his tale, “The Fiddler in the Night,” a story that aches with loneliness, love and loss, but drips with blood.
The story is told in the sparest prose, descriptions and character emotions ground down to bare essentials. Things are, the land is and time stretches back through history and into a foggy uncertain future. The style allows each reader to alone assess motive and resolution.
In its barest form, “The Fiddler in the Night,” brings together separate searchers seeking a measure of peace, freedom or relief. In its fullest form, the story rubs hope and peace with evil.
Jonathan McClean, 16, is a scion of a family who has farmed a piece of Arcadia for generations. He leaves the farm one night after his terminally ill father chooses death, and his mother leaves, seeking solitude and perhaps her own death.
The search is triggered by the disappearance of Jonathan’s mother, and the theft of his father’s truck.
Jonathan crosses paths with a handful of colorful and disparate souls, including Holly, a girl held captive as a sex slave, and Rachel, a young girl whose mother is gone and her father is killed. She occupies a surprising place in the story.
Raging over the story is Leonard, a 17-year-old untethered killer who leaves a trail of butchery across the dark landscape. His murders grow in savagery and brutality as his blood lust grows, engorged by the thrill and his self-fulfillment.
Jonathan and Leonard cross paths, each with murder in their minds. In his heart, Jonathan wants to find an end to the trail of deaths he has tracked, all leading to Leonard.
Leonard simply kills, filled with his glorified senses of revenge and power.
The story reads a times like poetry and at others, like a fever dream, an enticing and imaginative combination that melds the heaviness of ancient mythmaking and the nervy edge of modern life.
The story concludes, but for Jonathan and Rachel, it does so with a measure of hopeful unease.