The Bull at the Gate, by Linda Acaster, is the second in the Torc of Moonlight trilogy of occult romantic thrillers. I read the first and have been waiting for this second with some impatience. It was worth the wait.
Linda Acaster is a writer with talent. That she’s done research in depth for this book is clear. The detail, especially of the archaeology and history of York, is superb. I thought I knew the city, but I’ve learned things I never even suspected. York is, in fact, another character in the book.
The story is complex; an intertwining of present day events with those occurring in Roman York. And, ever-present, the raison d’être of hero Nick’s every move, is the enigmatic and mysterious entity that may or may not be Alice. The past returns to haunt Nick, literally, as he struggles to recover from the devastation of loss that occurred earlier in his life. To complicate matters, a new woman emerges uninvited into his life. Sophie is clearly a girl intent on a good time and, when she goes missing, her association with Nick places him in the field as a prime suspect with the local police.
Are Nick’s experiences real, imaginary, glimpses of another world and time, or the product of a damaged mind struggling with a past event too difficult to face? In weaving the tale, Linda Acaster keeps the reader guessing, providing clues but muddying the waters with an unreliable narrator.
Is this book crime, romance, historical, occult, or is it both a combination of these and something else entirely? And does it matter that it crosses genres? As a reader, such classification isn’t important to me. What matters is a gripping tale populated by characters I can empathise with and others I can thoroughly dislike. And this book provides exactly that. Had my circumstances been different, I would have read this at one sitting. As it was, I found myself eager to read it whenever time and opportunity allowed. I was driven to reach the end, to discover what would happen.
As with the first book in the series, this is a well-told tale with real depth and multiple themes explored in a unique style. And, as expected of a work of intelligence, it makes demands of the reader. There are several WTF? moments, times when the reader has to pause to consider, times when questions arise unanswered only to be clarified later in the story. I like that. Reading is far from a passive activity and Linda Acaster’s writing brings the occupation to life in a unique way.
I enjoyed the read and have no hesitation in recommending the book. And, let’s have the final book as soon as possible!