Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn by David John Griffin

Dogs are reported for their constant barking … and so begins one of the strangest stories you will ever read.

Audrey Ackerman, sent to visit the dogs at a 17th century coach house, is unsettled by paranormal sightings.

Stella Bridgeport – manager at The Animal Welfare Union – communicates with Audrey via emails. And those Stella receives are as startling as they are incredible: descriptions of extraordinary events concerning a science fiction writer’s journal; giant swans; bizarre android receptionist; a ghost dog.

Insanity or fantasy? Fact or fiction? The only given is, it all starts and ends with two dogs at The One Dog Inn.

David John Griffin

This is another book by one of the members of the Magic Realism Books Facebook group and it goes to show what a talented bunch we are. 

 Two Dogs at the One Dog Inn is a novella, but it packs a lot into its 87 pages. Something very strange has happened at the One Dog Inn, something that has sent an otherwise rational and competent Audrey to the edge of a breakdown. The two women exchange emails with Stella trying to come up with rational answers, and angering Audrey in the process: ear infections, hallucinatory chemicals, a film set, going insane, but nothing accounts for what Audrey encountered. The email exchange worked well, establishing both women as credible and sympathetic characters. 

Then Audrey sends Stella some other material - a long (too long in my opinion) extract of a history of the One Dog Inn and its hauntings and the files from a memory stick that one of the dogs digs up from the inn's courtyard. These files contain an account of a stay at the inn by a science fiction novelist, plus notes about the novel he is writing.  The novelist's account seems to support Audrey's experience, even if Stella stills sees it as fiction.

This is a very clever book. It plays with all sorts of familiar elements and gives them a twist - ghostly hounds, gothic inns, secret tunnels, automata. Do we get a final answer? What do you think?

One issue I had with the novel was the author's practice of replacing names of real-world items  with made-up ones - so an iPad is referred to as an iNote, the story is set in a fictitious English county called Kantem, presumably Kent. I am not sure why the author did this. The effect was to distract me from the story as I worked out what he was referring to. It seems to me that a major part of the success of magic realism is the establishment of the real in the story. So it would have been better to set the story in Kent referencing identifiable towns. Then the contrast with the strange happenings would have been more pronounced. 

A really enjoyable novella. I gather that David has another book out anytime now. I will look out for it.

I received this book from the author in return for a fair review.

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