The Kind Folk is a novel of supernatural horror written by genre grandmaster Ramsey Campbell. It was published by both PS Publishing (2012) and TOR Books (2016). I’ve long been a huge fan of Ramsey’s work. Incarnate, The Grin of the Dark, Ancient Images, Midnight Sun, Hungry Moon and many other novels of his I consider to be true masterpieces. The Kind Folk is a worthy addition to that list.
The story opens on the set of a British talk show where host Jack Brittan is revealing the results of a paternity test to the Arnold family regarding their adult Uncle Terence possiby being Luke’s real father. Shockingly, the test not only reveals that isn’t the case, but that Luke is not actually related to any of them. The conclusion to this is some mishap must have taken place at the hospital resulting in his having been switched at birth with someone — or something, else. While his family tells him it doesn’t matter, Luke feels driven to seek answers. The fact that his partner Sophie is pregnant with his son makes the need to learn his true heritage even more important.
Luke has an extraordinary ability to mimic other people, a talent he’s capitalized on to become a rising star on the standup comedy circuit. The expense of his child’s impending arrival means he can’t afford to miss any bookings which often sets him on the road to various remote night clubs. It’s during one of these performances that he receives a call from his Uncle Terrance urgently requesting to meet with him. Luke has always been particularly close to his uncle who used to regale him with countless tales about the fairies, nature spirits and old magics hidden in common paces all around them.
Unfortunately, Terrance dies suddenly before he can tell Luke what he wanted to say. Following the funeral while Luke and Sophie are going through his uncle’s belongings, they come across some strange artifacts and a journal filled with brief, cryptic messages that seems to imply his uncle suspected Luke’s origins wheren’t natural.
Using the journal as a guide, Luke begins to investigate the names and locations referenced. This leads him along a path that involves secret fae hand gestures hidden in famous paintings and of special places where unwary travelers can find themselves trapped by forgotten enchantments. Once he begins seeing a host of misshapen beings at his performances that aren’t visible to anyone else, he comes to believe his uncle’s stories might have been real. These weird creatures seem to be hard at work trying to gain his attention and to direct him to specific locations for reasons he doesn’t understand. What is it these eldrich beings want from him? Is he one of them? Is that what grants him his mastery of impersonation, and if he is like them, what does that make his son?
I really loved this book and was riveted to see how the mysteries unfolded along the way. As usual with one of Ramsey’s novels, the horror begins subtly, allowing for commonplace explainations, but as the story progresses the strangeness and dread mount into full blossom by its conclusion. The fairies Luke encounters in this book aren’t of the miniature ballerinas fluttering about on gossamer wings variety either. They take more hideous, gobliniod forms as they act out in strange yet purposeful ways that let Luke know they have a plan in mind for him. For me, this was yet another brilliant and thoroughly satisfying read by Ramsey Campbell.
The Kind Folk on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kind-Folk-Novel-Ramsey-Campbell/dp/0765382458
Article by Matt Cowan