Thursday, July 08, 2010

Fiction: Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott

Alex is in his 20s, living in a shared house and working a dead-end job after failing to get anywhere with his art. Suddenly, he runs into childhood sweetheart Madigan, daughter of a wealthy family, who had been taken back to Ireland and wandered Europe after her mother’s death, before returning to Melbourne.

Madigan is beautiful, passionate, far more talented in art than Alex could ever be. And she is very much in love with him.

But Madigan has something deeply weird about her. She moves into his share house and his life, then brings her group of -- disciples? Fans? Only Alex can’t see that there’s anything wrong, but even he throws her out when she finally goes too far even for him -- and then she commits suicide.

But is she as dead as she seems? Alex suffers blackouts. People he has never met greet him. He has, apparently, done things he can’t remember doing. And then things get worse.

Madigan Mine (Pan Macmillan Australia) could easily be a psychological thriller, but gradually, through flashbacks, the reader realizes that there is enough evidence to believe Alex when he says he’s possessed.

It’s an interesting premise, a possession story from the viewpoint of the possessed, and it’s some time before you do accept that he’s possessed and not just crazy -- Alex is not exactly a stable person even at the beginning of the novel. My own background has the dybbuk as part of its folklore, but there is a ritual way to get rid of the dybbuk, while Alex seems to find only one very grim way to get her out of his body, if he is willing to do it.

This is a debut novel from a writer who is well-known in Australia for her short horror fiction and has won several awards in this genre. Hopefully, it is just the first in a long career. ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog The Great Raven can be found at

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