Reviews, Scottish Reads

The Sinister Cabaret

An Edinburgh advocate undergoes an interior experience of humiliation and terror, totally losing his way in a surreal Scottish Highland adventure.

John Herdman’s classic tale of Jungian mania is brought to you in this new edition, introduced by the author.

Douglas Humbie, leaving behind his career and his wife in Edinburgh, heads north to familiar places for a short break. Unfortunately, the familiar places have become unfamiliar and even hostile.

Each setting, each character, each event is an unsettling side-step away from normality in a dark, brooding surreal landscape that has Douglas fleeing manically around the country and the reader deeply uneasy. Fearing that his wife has been abducted, he seeks out MacNucator, a private detective, to find her.

Meanwhile the Sinister Cabaret of the title, led by the strange and unfathomable Mr Motion, pursues him relentlessly.

I was so excited to get my wee paws on this book, it sounded delightfully bizarre and that’s what I look for in a book. I can confirm that my expectations regarding the sheet strangeness of this book were met.

This book was…odd. So odd. It was one of those books where it didn’t make sense to try to work out why things were happening, I just had to accept that they were and go with it. It felt like a fever dream!

The book was set into three distinct parts which followed the classic format of setting the scene, building the excitement, and climax. each part had multiple very short chapters which I feel really helped this book to feel quick paced. The pacing was really fast, it almost felt a little manic at times which worked well with the subject

Poor Douglas faced one unpleasant experience after another. He was being haunted by The Sinister Cabaret, hosted by the talented mimic Motion. Their performances that felt intended to torment him and him alone. When the cabaret weren’t performing, Motion would suddenly pop having been impersonating someone else much to Douglas’s ignorance. I loved waiting for Motion to show up and enjoyed trying to guess which character he would turn out to be. I felt that I couldn’t trust anyone to be who they claimed to be.

Douglas met some odd characters along the way as he traipsed across The Highlands, some were Motion and others were not. However, most of them were strange in one way or another.

The book threw in some flashbacks for Douglas as he reminisced on his past, both as a child and as a younger man. Suddenly he’d find those features or characters of the past in modern day.

This was full of twists and turns, strange occurrences, it was unpredictable and just batty. I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was so unusual, in a good way.

I couldn’t work out if it was all really happening or if Douglas was having a breakdown or a nightmare. I think that this was part of the charm, the not knowing.

The ending of this book was very pleasing! I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

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