Welcome back to Reading the Weird, in which we get girl cooties all over weird fiction, cosmic horror, and Lovecraftiana—from its historical roots through its most recent branches.
This week, we start on John Connolly’s “The Fractured Atlas,” first published in 2015 as part of Night Music: Nocturnes Volume II, with Part IV, sections I-VIII: “The Wanderer in Unknown Realms.” Spoilers ahead.
Soter, General Pulteney’s accuser from last chapter, has returned to London to meet with the lawyer Quayle, who employs him as a private investigator. One of Quayle’s ancestors formed a partnership with the Huguenot refugee Couvret. Couvret eventually sank into alcoholism and became a liability to his partner; Quayle believes his ancestor may have arranged Couvret’s robbery and murder. Proud family history!
Quayle introduces Soter to Sebastian Forbes, nephew of his client Lionel Maulding. Maulding has gone missing. As Forbes is Maulding’s heir, he’s anxious to ascertain whether he’s alive or dead. Although Soter angers Forbes by badmouthing Pulteney, he gets the job.
Soter goes to stay at Maulding’s estate, slowly decaying Bromdun Hall. Maulding lived in only a few rooms, his housekeeper Mrs. Gissing explains. The rest hold his book collection. Left with a twisted leg by childhood polio, Maulding rarely left home; his books brought the world to him. There are volumes in every major language and on every subject. By Maulding’s bed Soter finds two oddities, an alchemical lexicon and Agrippa’s Three Books on Occult Philosophy.
Mrs. Gissing returns to her own home every night, leaving Soter alone in the Hall. He doesn’t object to the arrangement. He combs through Maulding’s papers. In the months before his disappearance, Maulding began dealing with two
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