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The Matrix is a gothic horror, written in the kind of scientific first person style of Sheridan Le Fanu. Except, unlike Le Fanu, it is set in the here and now. We meet Andrew Macleod, a Gaelic native speaker from Lewis as he arrives in Edinburgh, only in his 30s and already grieving the loss of his young wife. He has taken a post at the university and sets out to explore historic occult groups. This draws Macleod into a terrifying world of hooded men, mysterious texts and unexplained illnesses.

Truly, Jonathan Aycliffe creates a creepy, eerie world and sustains it as the narrative moves from Edinburgh to Morocco and back to Scotland. This is done mostly through innuendo, scratching in the attic, glimpses in the shadows and builds into blips in the timeline. The characters feel real; there is a great sense if interface between the real, contemporaneous world and an ancient, Arabic, occult world. Thus far, it works well.

But something happens towards the end. As the mysterious happenings cohere into a plot, the pace starts to race and the strength of the imagery weakens. The ending itself is weak and implausible - it is a huge letdown for a novel that has been so intriguing.



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