Epeolatry Book Review: The Man in the Field by James Cooper


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Title: The Man in the Field
Author: James Cooper
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Genre: Occult Horror
Release Date: 10th June, 2022

Synopsis: The village: a remote, God-fearing place, governed by ancient rituals that provide eternal balance to the land. Here, people have faith in working the soil, the good Lord above and their own peaceful community. This is how they have lived for centuries, the Council providing spiritual oversight and the charismatic Father Lynch lighting the way.

As he does every year, according to an age-old custom, the man in the field arrives amid much rejoicing and apprehension. To sanctify the newly planted crops and ensure a productive harvest, the village must make a personal sacrifice in his name. This is the tradition that must be honored. For every blessing, there is a debt to be paid . . .

Mother Tanner, an older member of the village, has seen all this before. She has been born and raised in the shadow of these harsh solemnities and feels increasingly disturbed by them. Celebrating the Turning of the Wheel and exalting in God’s bounty is only half the story; there is much here that she is starting to distrust. Not least of which is Father Lynch himself and his beloved Council. And the enigmatic man in the field, who gazes not at the village, but at the distant horizon, thinking only of the overdue debt and the stroke of midnight when it will be time to collect . . . 

One portion M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, plus one part Handmaid’s Tale, added to a bit of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and you get this wicked little novella, The Man in the Field by James Cooper.

Mother Tanner has lived her whole life in this little village, controlled by one man and those who hang on his every word, and she has tired of the yearly ritual spurred by the arrival of the mysterious ‘man in the field’. When Mother Cullen loses that which she loves most, the last of Mother Tanner’s faith in the village is put to the test as she once again comes face to face with the horrible yearly cost paid for a bountiful harvest. 

This is a very timely book. Much like Handmaid’s Tale, the themes of religiously backed patriarchy and the control of women are ever present. The characters are believable. Throughout the story, Mother Tanner moves from complacent to confrontational. There is mention of someone who left the village, but there no proof that they escaped without consequence. Cooper even hints that this quaint village exists in modern times.

Tension builds, but, in the end, the plot fizzles. The story seemed to be building toward something huge, but it just didn’t happen. I do not regret the journey, but I was hoping for something more grandiose.

Readers could use an optional content warning for violence against women (mostly off stage), suicide, and a trigger warning. 

All in all, The Man in the Field is a scary portrayal of a functioning cult fully cut off from the world. 


Available from Amazon.

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