EXPOSE THE DARKEST OF SECRETS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD.
A deadly menace threatens a remote island community and every man, woman and child is in peril. Sent to the isle to collect the remains of a dead fugitive, US Marshal Virgil Bone is trapped by torrential storms.
As the body count rises the community unravels, and Bone is thrust into the role of investigator. Aided by a local woman and the town pariah, he uncovers the island’s macabre past and its horrifying connection to the killings.
Some curses are best believed. Sometimes the past is best left buried.
And some will kill to keep it so.
Proudly presented by Grey Matter Press, the multiple Bram Stoker Award-nominated independent publisher.
John C. Foster's The Isle is a gothic New England horror/mystery that is positively ripe with atmosphere. It's the kind of book where you can practically see the crabs darting to and fro and taste the salt in the misty air, as you worry that your Kindle might start growing barnacles. When it comes to tone and a sense of place, The Isle is abundantly rich. Unfortunately, it's also a story that left me a bit damp in the end.
The premise is pretty simple, but Foster shades in some well-layered complications after US Marshall Virgil Bone is sent to a remote island to collect the remains of a fugitive. Trapped on the island by dangerous storms, Bone is soon caught up in a murderous mystery after the island's constable is found dead. What follows is a folkloric work of horror as Bone is forced to confront both the islanders and this small community's atrocious history.
I flat-out loved the isle's history and the dark web of deceit and murder that has bound this small village together. It's creepy and dreadful, and Foster uses it build some wonderfully unforgettable imagery. The isle is cut off from the US mainland by sheer force of will almost as much as circumstance. Given its remoteness, there's little electricity and no television, and its community is virtually adrift from the present-day. It's lack of modernity gives it an almost Amish quality at times.
Frankly, it's an element of the story I struggled with. I had difficulty jibing this lost in time community with the present-day, and the contrast between torch-wielding townsfolk with names like Increase Mather and Burden Ipswich and the cell phone carrying Bone never quite gelled for me. Admittedly, it adds a degree of discomfort to the read, but it's also a particular element that I found myself rallying against. I'm not a gothic enthusiast by any means, and given that the isle has a ferry to the mainland, this forced disconnect felt a little too forced. My brain kept telling me this was a historical narrative, but then modern-day technology would intrude, and it just all felt really off-kilter. I can't help but feel like The Isle would have been more satisfying if it were either historical or contemporary all the way through, rather than trying to saddle the line and be both things at once.
Over the course of The Isle and the unraveling of Bone's personal history, Foster gives us a very complicated protagonist that I could never quite root for. He's a character I grew mostly ambivalent toward, and as the pacing for the middle section of The Isle slowed way down, I found myself growing increasingly ambivalent toward the book as well. It starts off wickedly strong and has a few really smart ideas and story elements sprinkled throughout, but it never quite recovered for me from its halfway slump. The climax is well done, drawing on the isle's folklore, but we're denied any sense of resolution as the story sputters to a sudden stop, losing all the wind in its sails.
Ultimately, I found myself slightly disappointed in The Isle due to some narrative choices made by Foster, but those parts of it that I dug I good and truly enjoyed. Foster does a sublime job in building up a rich New England atmosphere and a unique folklore that, taken together, are as thick as lobster stew, but the delivery just isn't quite as satisfying.
[Note: I received an advance reading copy of The Isle from the publisher, Grey Matter Press.]
This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Isle is a gothic New England horror story that is so vivid and descriptive you can almost imagine smelling the sea air as you read. Additionally, the Isle itself and its inhabitants are so vividly written that you feel as if you have been transported back in time. This is an island that is completely shut off from the mainland, and the islanders have lived a simple life that is very similar to the founding settlers who lived there in the 1600s. With deep and antiquated New England accents, and virtually no technology, the small town is immediately unfamiliar and even hostile feeling to the reader.
US Marshal Virgil Bone feels much the same when he arrives on the island to bring a body back to the mainland. The islanders are not very cooperative, and very unwelcoming to people from the mainland, especially a "lawman". While retrieving the body during a massive storm, an islander is murdered in an extremely violent fashion, and the hostile islanders are disappointed to learn that the Marshal cannot leave the island until he makes contact with the mainland and gets backup in order to assist with the investigation.
The longer Bone remains on the island, the weirder things get, and eventually he learns the truth about the history of the island and the traditions that the islanders have kept alive for centuries. As the body count rises the Marshal realizes that he may be trapped, and that that islanders may not want him brining more outsiders to their secluded home.
Parts of this novel are atmospheric and truly creepy. The story told to the Marshal about the first settlers is quite disturbing. I very much liked the eerie atmosphere of an island totally cut off from the modern day world, but at the same time it seemed a bit implausible. The islanders still have names like their Puritan ancestors, with prominent characters named Hatevil Nutter and Increase Mather. Those names, and the odd way the islanders talk and behave makes it hard to remember that this is a novel taking place in modern time. Also, some of the murders are never really explained, and things are just blamed on the isle being the isle. A lot happens in this novel, and not all of it resolved or completely explained.
Regardless of a few plot problems, this book is an atmospheric mystery steeped in legend. The isle and the terrible things that happen to the first settlers is fascinating. It just seems as if after so many years the islanders would have rebelled against the curse that keeps them repeating the past. Still, I found this one to ultimately be an enjoyable read.
*I received a complimentary copy of this audiobook of this and am voluntarily leaving this honest review.
This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It was pretty good in parts and a wee flat in others. It wasn’t bad, but think it could have been better. The narration was a little uneven as well and took me a few chapters to get it to settle in, but once it did, I was much more comfortable the rest of the way.
The Isle is a dark and demented look at the way life, or what passes for it, has evolved on a remote island off the New England coast.
No doubt, John C. Foster knows how to string words together...
"Dawn was a red rim of anger on the horizon as the storm gathered its strength and the wind tried to rip the door from his grip. Waves detonated against the rocks with loud explosions of white foam, the ocean matching the swirling fury of the storm clouds overhead."
Foster is an artist who is able to paint pictures with his words and does it again and again...
"The Isle is technically only a territory. Not part of Maine. It’s eighty-two miles off the coast. Isolated. Only about three hundred people living there. The only regular transport back and forth is a boat that delivers lobster and fish and picks up supplies."
The official synopsis for The Isle describes the story better than I ever could...
"A deadly menace threatens a remote island community and every man, woman and child is in peril. Sent to the isle to collect the remains of a dead fugitive, US Marshal Virgil Bone is trapped by torrential storms."
As the body count rises the community unravels, and Bone is thrust into the role of investigator. Aided by a local woman and the town pariah, he uncovers the island’s macabre past and its horrifying connection to the killings.
Some curses are best believed. Sometimes the past is best left buried. And some will kill to keep it so."
I enjoyed the way Foster would withhold secrets, reveling them at just the right moment. The story of the curse on The Isle was formidable. In some ways, this is a literary work. In others, it's an homage to New England gothic horror. However, you look at it, The Isle is a helluva lot of fun.
Published by Grey Matter Press, The Isle is available in both paperback and e-book formats.
From the author's bio -John C. Foster was born in Sleepy Hollow, New York, and has been afraid of the dark for as long as he can remember. The Isle grew out of his love for New England, where he spent his childhood. He is the author of three previous novels, Dead Men, Night Roads and Mister White, and one collection of short stories, Baby Powder and Other Terrifying Substances. His stories have appeared in magazines and anthologies including Dark Moon Digest, Strange Aeons, Dark Visions Volume 2 and Lost Films, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with the actress Linda Jones and their dog Coraline.
*** Edited as review is now live on Kendall Reviews!***
Grey Matter Press has been pumping out some truly fantastic work as of late. I am in the minority where the only other GMP release I have had the pleasure of reading thus far was Devouring Dark by Alan Baxter. I ate that book up and was really excited to jump the deep end with this one. (Sorry had to do a water pun there!)
The Isle has everything I would ever dream of in the synopsis. A strange island cut off from the mainland by a ferry ride. A curse. Odd characters. Reads like a horror lover’s dream.
After reading this book, I have come to find, overall, it just wasn’t for me. It is fantastically written, the story weaves its way between the modern day mystery and the folklore of the curse, but I found myself tuning out at times. It just wasn’t holding me as much as I had thought it would.
I know this was based on the author’s love and personal experiences with New England, but I found myself struggling with the characters names. Bone is the main character and I get that it’s his last name, but when seen in the overall package of names it began to grate on me. We also have Burden Ipswich, Honor, Increase, and a few others I’m going to save your from as I want to keep this spoiler free.
At the end of the day I have a few closing thoughts. I know this review sounds a bit down but that’s not the fault of the book, that’s the fault of me as the reviewer. As I mentioned, I just didn’t jive with the book.
So my closing thoughts;
Fantastically written, dark tale, full of intrigue and mystery The back story of the curse is fascinating and I almost wish it was available as a stand-alone tale This would make for a really phenomenal horror movie. I don’t think words can convey the damp, wet setting well enough. I think seeing it through a cinematic scope would win that movie awards. While the names were off putting, the characters were not. Yes they are flawed, but that’s real life. And the golden rule in fiction is evidenced here – people won’t always act rationally so stop trying to rationalize irrational actions. The cover art work is stunning yet again. GMP continues to knock these out of the park! For me personally it was a 3.5/5 but I suspect for many people these book will become a favourite read of theirs easily.
This is a hard book to review. My thoughts upon finishing it were that the story is beautifully written. The author clearly has talent, but I found the plot to be slow, and odd to say the least. At no stage was I invested in it, nor did I really connect with the characters, yet I still read to the end, though I don't know why!! Other than that, I don't have much to say.
I will try out other things by the author because he writes vividly but this one wasn't for me.
Linda Jones read this well. She was easy to follow and had enough tones and voices to distinguish the characters.
I was given this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. This in no way affected nor influenced my thoughts.
I'm a big fan of this author's work because he has such an ominous tone and voice in his work. He grips you from the opening page and you know you're in for a great dark ride.
My only (small) complaint was wanting more of this story! Otherwise, the characters are so well-developed and unique you feel like you're reading a history of the isle. Can't wait to read more of his work!
US Marshal Virgil Bone finds himself amongst the Isle's isolated community - a community that shares a horrific past that still taints their daily life. Mistrusted and clearly unwelcome from the onset, Bone struggles to do his job, which was supposed to be the simple collection of a fugitive's dead body. Now he's stranded, surrounded by secrets and a rising death toll. If only he wasn't met with aggression, then maybe he could help save lives.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I thank Grey Matter Press for giving me the opportunity.
I was thoroughly impressed upon beginning this one, because from early on the atmosphere - hopelessly miserable - truly appealed to me. Seriously, the level of detail was through the roof, and made me shiver as if I too was battling the horrendous weather. It's a rarity that I feel so completely immersed, therefore I have to give credit where it's due. I think it's because of that solid writing that I empathised with the protagonist, U.S. Marshall Bone, even though he wasn't the most likeable character ever. A lot of attention fell upon his mental state and the turmoil that plagued him, making him terribly realistic in his flaws. As for the others, I quite liked Burden and Hazel, even Samuel Weeks to an extent. None were perfect, or clear-cut good people.
I think the strength truly lay in the first fifty percent, however after that point certain things became clear, and I couldn't help but question some plot decisions that I found to be off-putting. One of those was the use of particular technology when convenience called, yet the setting itself was reminiscent of New England in the seventeenth century, complete with Puritan names, emphasis on religion, and a lack of anything modern. But when someone needed to watch a VHS tape? There was suddenly a TV and the means to do so. I would have preferred the all or none approach, as the middle ground just didn't sit well with me.
It also began to drag in the last half, and that was where I found it difficult to stay invested. This isn't to say the story didn't try its best to recapture my interest; the glimpses into the history of the Isle were wonderfully gruesome, and a part of me wanted the entire story to be based in that specific time period. It was a disappointment that those little segments didn't save the overall burn-out. Even the ending wasn't particularly memorable, and I don't think it was fully coherent on the events that transpired. I still have many questions, and even though I don't mind them going unanswered and relying on my own interpretation, it would have been nice to get a little more closure.
In conclusion: The Isle hooked me from the beginning, but my attention waned the further I progressed. Whilst the gloomy atmosphere was top-notch, the story slowed to a crawl, to the point I just wanted it to be over. It's a shame, because it started with the potential to be a favourite read.
Like an animal, she recognized the howling cries of her own kind and wandered straight into the village, her bare and bloody feet silent on the cobblestones. Her head was light with a lack of nourishment and she muttered and sang as little girls were wont to do, a stream of nonsense sounds that kept her company.
A closed society. Secrets. Atmosphere you can taste. Names have power and John C Foster was wise enough to dedicate THE ISLE to the pair who came up with the historical names for this horrifying novel of one New England village.
Foster's writing was beautiful and flowed easily from one page to the next. He took care to write conversation in the dialect of Maine, giving the book even more flavor.
My only complaint was the abrupt ending. Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this truly dark book and am rounding my review up to 5 stars.
John C. Foster has written an exceptional gothic mystery, heightened by an atmosphere of ancient New England fishing towns, Puritan folklore, storm-tossed seas, and the secrets that lay buried beneath it all. It's the attention to detail that brings out THE ISLE's astounding authenticity, from the eerie lobstermen -- childhood rattles made of crucified lobster shells with a baby tooth inside -- to the insular community traditions so confusing to outsiders, to modern-day characters still bearing names held over from Puritan days, such as Burden Ipswich, Increase Mather, Hatevil Nutter, and so many others. I won't give away THE ISLE's secrets -- nor the Isle's secrets -- but the gruesome, compelling mystery at the heart of the novel is matched only by its horrific resolution. THE ISLE is Foster's best work yet, and I hope it marks the start of an exciting new direction in his writing: New England gothic!
Tell me that's not an interesting cover. It's partly what drew me to the book when it was offered. The other part was creepy fishing island and a mystery afoot. Of course I'll be interested. And for the most part, I wasn't disappointed.
The narration by Linda Jones was pretty good. It had a quiet and subdued tone that fit very well with the moodiness of the story. If I had one complaint about the narration of The Isle it would be that it was sometimes hard to differentiate between speakers occasionally.
The writing stye is very description heavy. I think, in general, that I would probably like it more as a book rather than an audiobook. The narrative could get a bit thick at times and I would have to rewind a few times to relisten to a certain passage. I don't mind description heavy writing but it's something that I would rather read as opposed to listening to it.
I really liked the plot but I can't say that I was very attached to the characters. The writing style kept them at an arm's length. This could be a product of listening but I don't think so. They all seemed aloof and a bit off-putting at times. That did fit with the story but also kept me from really rooting for any one character. I did like the character of Bone (even if they did use one of the most tired tropes as backstory and the angsty, guilt-ridden, alcoholic detective is pretty overused, as well). One of the things that put me off a bit was the "Burn the witch!" theme in parts. As in, some characters were quite literally chanting this. It's just kind of hokey and made me roll my eyes a little.
I can't say that it was a very quick listen. It would periodically get bogged down before it would get going again. I'm also thankful that Lilyn did give me a heads up on the manner of child death because when I got to the part I could skim forward a little. They didn't seem too graphic but the manner is something that really bothers me so it was nice to have a little warning.
I would recommend it if you're looking for a good, gothic slow-burner ala Ghost Story by Peter Straub. It certainly feels wet, stormy and claustrophobic. The author certainly does have a way of setting the scene and describing. A lot of the imagery was downright chilling. As personal tastes go, I'd recommend reading over listening but that's just me. Other people might enjoy listening more.
"Chilling" in several ways. SE7EN meets THE VVITCH.
Relentlessly and unapologetically dark, we begin with a US Marshal barely recovered from a tragedy who is assigned to recover a body from an island far off the Maine coast. The island is isolated, with unreliable electricity and telephone, and its culture is trapped in the past. There, US Marshal Bone finds a deepening mystery of something horrific in the island's past resulting in suspicion, vendetta, and horrible, graphic deaths.
Foster's descriptions of wind-whipped sea water, rain, mud and wet sand will chill you. I can't recall a novel provoking such a physical reaction. And the commentary on human nature's cruelty is equally chilling, with the residents of the Isle—with a few exceptions—representing the worst of humanity.
If you want a horror novel where the hero might not win (or survive), where no one lives happily ever after, where the "monster" isn't vanquished, then The Isle is for you.
The Isle, By John C. Foster, is a novel of isolation, dread, and small town terror. Part horror and part murder mystery, Foster has crafted a novel in which its greatest strengths are the immersion and atmosphere the reader will experience.
U.S. Marshall Virgil Bone is a man with a haunted past. Seemingly at the end of his career, he is assigned the menial task of retrieving the corpse of a fugitive from a small island town off the coast of Maine, but as can be expected, the Isle isn’t what it appears to be. Despite being close proximity to the state, The Isle is actually its own jurisdiction, and the residents live isolated from the mainland aside from a few fishermen who peddle their catch and return with supplies. From the start, Foster sets the tone with incredibly well written descriptions that continue throughout the novel. They’re detailed enough to establish a sense of isolation and dread while keeping a sense of foreboding just under the surface. You feel as if danger could lurk around any corner, even before anything happens. The richly built atmosphere, along with the history of The Isle itself really makes it feel as if it’s a character rather than a setting. This goes a long way to keeping the book interesting even as it slows down.
For as much fun as I had with The Isle, I do have a few complaints. Chief among them is that the story bogs down in the middle, something made more noticeable because it’s bookended by such a strong start and finish. My second complaint would be with the main protagonist, Virgil Bone. While Foster does make an effort to develop his backstory, it never really pays off. I found Bone to be lackluster. He’s a character you neither love nor hate, which for me is an issue. I’d rather hate the main character than not care about them at all. My last complaint is a minor one, but it’s one that I noticed early on and continued to bug me as new residents would be introduced. Many of the townspeople had really odd names. I tried writing it off to being isolated from civilization, but then how do you Explain “Virgil Bone”
By the time I had reached the end, and despite a few things that bugged me, I felt satisfied with what Foster had written. Overall, I enjoyed my stay on The Isle.
With the Isle, Foster has crafted an atmospheric murder mystery. It’s a well written novel that despite flashes of greatness, doesn’t quite achieve it. I didn’t love The Isle, but I did like it. I had fun, and if the synopsis sounds interesting to you, I think you might like it too
There's an excellent blurb on the front of this book along the lines of it being from one of Nathanial Hawthorne's nightmares. It's a great quote, because it credits the way Foster has captured that archaic feel, the language, the characters, and oh man, the setting.
At first glance an enjoyable seaside horror, reminiscent of The Fog, maybe Jaws, knowing you're there in the deep with something lurking. The longer you read though, the more you realize how much more there is to this story, the way things come full circle, and true horror is revealed in several forms. Foster also does an excellent job with the juxtaposition of an island sunk in the past, and flailing against the future that's coming for it in the form of Virgil Bone.
My first from this author, and will not be my last.
First of all I would like to that Grey Matter Press for a copy of ‘The Isle’ to read in exchange for an honest review. The lead protagonist, Bone, is sent to The Isle to retrieve the body of a fugitive, Richard Slocum. “Still a federal fugitive until we bring him in” he is told. He takes passage on Leviathan, a fishing boat captained by one by the interesting character, Samuel Weeks. Bone has many issues of his own to deal with such as the drinking problem that led to the death of his wife. He is a much layered character, something which I like. The more depth I feel with a character, the more you can relate to them. With this, it also brings you closer, in a fashion, to the story. The trip out to The Isle I particularly enjoyed reading. It was very claustrophobic, very intense and descriptive, really making you feel like you were there, on the boat. I swear I felt a little sea sick reading it. The atmosphere was very dark and unnerving, as the reader, you never quite knew what to expect. Bone then becomes stranded on The Isle due to the deteriorating weather, and finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery wrapped up in a curse tied up in very strange bow. This is a very interesting read, a murder mystery in an isolated environment. The Isle is very Gothic in nature, a good collection of odd characters, with a rich, old feeling, New England atmosphere.
If you're a fan of gothic(ish), horror thrillers, you'll be delighted with this, his latest novel.
I Love John C. Foster's voice. It is SO dark and filled with portent! He has a wonderful way of increasing the tension with every page, and yet also infusing his characters with a bit of sly humor. His choice of names, for example -- Bones, and Honor and Increase and Burden. Then there are the crabs, clanking out of everything, and the lobster down in the deep dark depths, and the murders, and the folklore and the wild North Atlantic... well, it's all good. You've been warned.
I will never go to an isolated, abandoned island, because now I know what could be there. The Isle is a November book, the beginning of a dark season, taking place in the cold and the wet, with shapes in the shadows and teeth in the dolls the children play with. Foster’s writing is so good that you’ll feel the damp and the chill, you’ll hear the shrieks and the inhuman mutter, you’ll see those children and their awful games, and worst of all, you’ll smell what’s cooking in the pots on feast day.
What a unique, scary story. The atmosphere in this book is so real, I felt as though I could smell the sea, and the tension at times was almost claustrophobic. It reminded me of watching those great old European horror movies at the all night drive- in theater back when I was a boy. Isolated and alone , with very little communication or interaction with the outside world. has left these island folk full of superstition and legends...or is it all truly real? Sometimes the folk tales are all too real. Terrifying and wonderful! I loved this one!
Inspector Virgil Bone is being sent from the New England mainland to retrieve a body from The Isle, a remote and secretive island miles of the coast, protected by monsters and myths, the inhabitants are not willing to have revealed. Bone is battling his own inner demons and then trapped in the island by relentless storms, murder and mayhem begin. The horrific secret of the The Isle is being revealed.
The Isle is stuck in time. Almost no electricity, phone or modern conveniences they live a remote life. You feel thrown back in time. It’s dark, wet, claustrophobic and creepy as the book peels back the layers of the communities history, you wonder if anyone is going to make out of there alive once all hell breaks loose.
Some reviewers say there is a significant slow down mid-book, I don’t feel it.. you need some break from the pain, violence and the feeling of your skin crawling all the time. The relentless ocean. Oh and stew scene will probably turn you off beef stew forever!
The ending was whirlwind and I hope for the best! No spoilers! Dark and primitive feeling with this town lost in history. I can’t say I’d visit again anytime soon though, The Isle does not want outsiders. Read immediately!
A creepy, compelling and nasty piece of folk fiction about a lawman traveling to a remote island to retrieve a body and gets drawn into the islands strange population. Well paced and very fun, this one is a winner.
The idea of an isolated island community existing in our modern world, inhabited by people ruled by traditional religious beliefs is a little hard to take at first. A small population who all seem to know each other, and who all turn their back on modern technology in favour of the "old ways".But, thanks to the power of Foster's storytelling, The Isle comes to life in the mind of the reader. From the rolling ocean waves to the eerie burned out buildings of the waterfront village, from the cottages with their thatched roofs to the mysterious lighthouse and it's equally mysterious inhabitant, every setting and every character adds to the all-encompassing sense of dread. Seeing the world through the eyes of US Marshal Virgil Bone - himself a troubled character - allows us to become immersed in the role of an outsider on the island. This is further enhanced by a wonderful narration by Linda Jones, who gives each character their own voices.
The mystery surrounding Bone's mission to the island, and the murky history of the inhabitants, is played out wonderfully. Foster never gives the reader too much information at once, instead eking it out in such a way that keeps us hooked right to the horrifying climax. It is a perfect gothic horror story for those readers (or audiobook listeners) who not only want to read and listen, but want to be engulfed by the darkness. Certain aspects reminded me of the movie The Wicker Man, which I did enjoy. But I found the experience of reading and listening to The Isle even more enjoyable.
Foster creates a memorable atmosphere and a perfect balance of folk horror and noir in The Isle and it’s a book that will appeal to any dark fiction fan. The novel features a damaged protagonist with demons buried in his past who visits an island whose residents harbor a dark secret. There are plenty of great twists and the setting of an isolated island that seems like a throwback to a simpler time in the early winter months make this is a book that should be an annual winter read. I love that Foster manipulates the timelines within the main narrative by featuring flashbacks to Bone’s past that led him to this island and the chilling recollection of The Isle’s frightening past. If you haven’t read any of Foster’s work, this is a great place to start.