The strange, idiosyncratic voice of Patrick McGrath was first heard in his 1988 collection, Blood and Water and Other Tales. The thirteen shards of narrative making up that darkly beguiling debut are linked by themes of repression, longing and the intersection of the bizarre with the seemingly everyday. The opening piece, ‘The Angel’, in which a seraph is discovered trapped in the body of an ageing, gay recluse, may be read in this regard as a statement of intent: all have about them the same air of faded melancholy, allied with a pawky, even ghoulish sense of humour. The result is a tone that might most accurately be described as puckish English gothic.
This quality characterises much of McGrath’s subsequent output, from his first novel, The Grotesque, about a helpless aristocrat in thrall to the machinations of his servant, to its eight successors, including Spider, which peers into the mind of a schizophrenic, and Asylum, which examines a damaging love affair in an