Scary Castle Ruin

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If a man wishes to drink the blood of his enemies, it is necessary that he salute Lord Belial...

For centuries, a rural village in the south of France has been overshadowed by the ruined Templar fortress of Montsévrain—where the ferocious, one-eyed Guilhem de Courdeval was burned at the stake in 1307 on charges of Satanic worship and black magic. The villagers' fear of Courdeval was so great that his charred bones were sealed inside a hidden mountain spring, with the water blessed in hopes that it would imprison his spirit forever.

Enter American history professor John McTell and his wife Linden, who rent a nearby villa for the summer. The unusually dry season has made water scarce, but a pair of unsuspecting well diggers have a solution for filling the villa's empty swimming pool: they plan to steal the water from the mountainside below the ruin of Montsévrain.

McMahon's first novel is dedicated to the English horror story writer M.R. James.... As James did, McMahon neatly conjures an atmosphere of quietly, steadily mounting horror.

Booklist, 1987

Tapping the hidden spring that contains Guilhem de Courdeval's bones, the two Frenchmen inadvertently unleash the Templar's evil spirit; it pervades the water that John McTell swims in every day. And this suits Courdeval's plans admirably. He needs to possess a human body that he can use as his own, and McTell is an easy mark—restless, dissatisfied, feeling that his tame life has missed out on the dramatic adventure and passion of his fantasies.

Courdeval plays on the American's weakness by means of a cunning occult seduction, offering to fulfill McTell's desires—but each time, the price becomes more sinister. As Courdeval gains control, these consequences escalate into true terror, wrought by his nightmarish familiar—a creature straight from hell, known long ago to medieval peasants by the fearfully whispered name celui—the one.

McMahon writes like the devil in this nasty occulter about the resurrection of a sadistic medieval sorcerer.

Kirkus Review, 1987

Strange happenings around the villa attract the notice of two local residents who have their own reasons for accepting the barely imaginable. One is ex-Resistance fighter Étien Boudrie, now a priest trying to expiate his wartime guilt. The other, Mélusine Devarre, is steeped in the arcane lore she inherited from her gypsy great aunt, along with the gift of second sight.

Together, they find themselves battling to protect the targets of Courdeval's wrath. But evil, like wildfire, is far easier to start than to stop.

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