Tim McGregor’s Novella Lure Will Draw You in Quick

Lure cover art by Matt Blairstone

Lure by Tim McGregor is the kind of story perfect for stormy evenings. As a novella, it’s possible to finish the entire read in one sitting. However, digesting its contents means this mermaid monster tale will stick with readers for a while after. Ideal for horror fans seeking a weekend diversion, Lure also provides ample fodder for those who’d desire to discuss the material further. What the story offers in glimpses but doesn’t fully illuminate is ripe for conversation during the cocktail hour called book club.

The novella opens with the description of a carcass in a chapel. The skeletal remains of a sea monster decorate the interior of this holy place and have for some nine hundred years—long enough for skepticism to creep in regarding its origin story. This sets up the juxtaposition of fact versus superstition which permeates Lure: what’s perceived as truth is not always fact. Even when reality twists beyond comprehension, characters cling to folklore rather than admit ignorance of the world.

The plot centers around Kaspar Lensman, a fifteen-year-old who feels trapped in the isolated fishing village Torgrimsvær. Every event is relayed through Kaspar’s first-person narration from his family coming here with his father the Reverend Uriah to the mermaid who soon menaces the town. While Torgrimsvær is fictional, details develop a sense of somewhere in the North Sea. That said, Lure does a wonderful job of implying our reality while inhabiting one entirely on its own. This allows the reader to feel familiar with the material yet be caught off guard when subtle differences emerge.

Mazatlan mermaid statue, sculpture of a mermaid set on rocky shore
Mazatlan Mermaid (130981211).jpeg by Ismail Esen is licensed under CC BY 3.0

From the religion practiced by Reverend Uriah to the very appearance of the mermaid, as Lure progresses, it reveals abnormalities that are not immediately apparent. This keeps the plot intriguing as the reader realizes things are not as simple as they seem. Consider how the initial description of the mermaid conjures classic notions of the human top on a fish body. At the risk of spoilers, Kaspar relates more details with each encounter, making the mermaid increasingly inhuman.

It’s tempting to say monstrous, but that’d solidify the notion that the mermaid is a monster. Lure is not much unlike Gwendolyn Kiste’s The Rust Maidens insofar as the horror here isn’t the creature; it’s the hideous way humanity reacts. In fact, when the mermaid becomes akin to Jaws, Tim McGregor does a solid job of making their actions justified. This isn’t some mindless monster terrorizing a village. The fisherfolk have it coming.

The obvious symbolism of humanity being unable to tame the ocean is there. Fortunately, it doesn’t come across as clunky. The mermaid in Lure works as multiple metaphors, the unconquerable natural world simply being one.

Misogyny is very clearly a theme explored by Lure. Though demonstrated a bit through the mermaid, the various ladies of Torgrimsvær reveal it more. Women are often depicted enduring abuse and lack of choice with grim stoicism. Unfortunately, the story never really gets into the women’s side of things since the story is told through Kaspar. More than the thoughts and feelings of the various afflicted women, the reader is left with the limited insights of a fifteen-year-old boy prone to white knight syndrome—local misogyny is bad but it makes the ladies seem to Kaspar more like damsels in distress. It’s an interesting presentation of the ignorance of the well-intentioned.

Prima Fonta Dei Mostri Marini, hideous sea creature fountain
Prima Vontana Dei Mostri Marini by sailko is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Consider, Kaspar hates that some women are forced into marriage not because the practice is wrong. Rather, he hates it because the young lady he loves, Agnet, has ended up the wife of another man. Kaspar even relates fantasies about beating her husband to a pulp then whisking Agnet away in a classic display of white knight syndrome. That her marriage is unpleasant is made clear. Unfortunately, her full reasons for staying are not, frustrating Kaspar and reader alike.

There’s an argument to be made this is for the best. Audiences can feel Kaspar’s irritation when Agnet won’t simply abandon her abusive husband. But it also reveals another theme in Lure, that of how impossible it is to fully know another mind. It’s a double-edged sword, however, since this is also a minor weakness of the novella.

Much of the story is told rather than shown. There are instances where the plot could’ve been furthered through depiction of events and dialogue rather than expositional dumps. This is a frequent hazard of first-person. Furthermore, perhaps consequently, some motivations never go beyond stock reasons. There’s room enough in the narrative to give certain characters depth but the story sticks to generic individuals at times. Not everyone needs a fully realized, multifaceted complexity; however, in instances involving core players like Gunther Torgmundsin, it feels like a lost opportunity.

Cover page for the novella Lure by Tim McGregor featuring the silhouette of a mermaid
Lure cover art by Matt Blairstone

Still, this doesn’t interfere with the narrative. After all, Lure isn’t lacking any flavor, especially when the blood and gore arrive. The familiar tropes do help speed the read along. However, in a horror story that feels as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a creature feature, exploring the idea that personal perception isn’t necessarily fact by revealing motivations beyond the narrator’s narrow knowledge and subsequent shallow conclusions would be that little soupçon spicing Lure to perfection.

For instance, there’s an argument to be made that Lure ignores its most promising characters. The women of Torgrimsvær are central to the overall narrative, especially towards the conclusion. Unfortunately, we only see them through the limited lens of Kaspar’s first-person narration. While this could be said to reveal his own lack of understanding of their plight, there’s a missed opportunity for his enlightenment which in turn could influence a reader, as well.

At the end of the day, Lure is an engaging read. Illustrations by artist Kelly Williams deepen the novella’s dark fairytale nature. Audiences will be carried to the end thrilled by bloodstained seas, the death of innocence, and the grim nightmare of humanity inviting its own demise. Available July 18th from Tenebrous Press, pick up Tim McGregor’s Lure, and enjoy, perhaps along some evening shrouded shore wondering what lurks beneath the waves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Jay Rohr

J. Rohr is a Chicago native with a taste for history and wandering the city at odd hours. In order to deal with the more corrosive aspects of everyday life he writes the blog and makes music in the band Beerfinger. His Twitter babble can be found @JackBlankHSH.

A girl looks up while climbing a ladder in Cryo

Chattanooga Film Festival 2022: Cryo Is a Twisty Chilly Thriller

Winston sets up against a tree after being chased through the woods, though he is still being stalked by the woods

Battle Of The Eco-Horror: In The Earth vs. Gaia