Tim McGregor’s Lure is A Dark Mer-Myth Inversion

Can you hear the sound of the singing?

Hell hath no fury like a woman imprisoned

There’s nothing better than a revenge story, to me, at the best of times. As we sit here on the cusp and in the midst of newly unprecedented fresh hells, it’s beginning to feel like every revenge tale I read is only more relevant and necessary. So it is with Tim McGregor’s latest novella from Tenebrous Press, Lure.

Mermaid myths seem almost uniquely suited to revenge tales, as far back as it is possible to imagine and in all kinds of mythology. These fierce maidens of the sea bear and unleash rage unlike anything else in myth, though they usually follow one more or less constant path. McGregor’s Lure presents an isolated town with a “luremaid” haunting its waters following the creature’s capture. Her path toward freedom and vengeance is, naturally, a violent one, but it is also somewhat unique (at least in my reading experience).

The novella centers on Kaspar, the son of the newly appointed local reverend, and his fishing town which seems to have cobbled its beliefs together from the intersection of Beowulf and Christianity. When they encounter a mermaid out at sea one day, the fishermen soon rabidly plot to capture her and decide her fate. Naturally, such hubris comes with a price and soon the town is thrown headfirst into incalculable turmoil.

Without going too into plot detail — its 170 page count means there is precious little wiggle room without accidentally spoiling — suffice it to say that no good or bad deed goes unpunished here, no secret fully kept by the sea. It is a brief but impactful examination of how quickly a town can be tossed into mistrust in a perceived or created crisis. Within these pages you can almost smell the brine of the sea as it crashes, and hear the burly attitudes of the fishermen and their placating wives as they struggle to understand how everything they knew could be so quickly tossed toward disarray.

She sings to lure you close, and leaves no trace of you behind

McGregor’s story opens and shuts under the same brushstroke of abrupt and surprising signals of doom; one venerated and abandoned, the other opposite. His ability to craft characters for whom you can feel so deeply so quickly, who seem so real so immediately, is the admirable stuff of magic novellas are built on. From start to finish we can sense he knows exactly the kind of tale he’s set out to tell, and he does it with the kind of mystical allure common to all merfolk legends.

My favorite line, and perhaps the one that most closely incapsulates the heart of the story, is:

“‘Mermaids are the souls of murdered women, lost to the sea. Even a child knows that.’

Sligo makes sport with this, joking that if this was true, the harbor would be overrun with mermaids. The fishermen slap one another on the back and laugh like apes. Their wives do not laugh.”

This is not the only instance of such casual joking and disregard for the lives of women in the town, or their beliefs, but it is the kind of core omen that echoes through the best myths and brings an extra layer of foreboding to the shadows of the speaker. It’s also the kind of thing you could just as easily hear on the street today anywhere, no tiny fishing town necessary.

We create myths to understand the world around us. Always have, likely always will. Much of that world is consumed with unimaginable violence whose victims, in the right hands, get a second chance at justice, if not at life. Now more than ever we need the kinds of tales where we’re given space to enact revenge on those who would seek to rip away our bodily autonomy and freedom.

And the luremaid has come to show us how.

I would like to thank Tenebrous Press for the opportunity to receive an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tim McGregor’s Lure comes to shelves near you July 18, 2022.

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Katelyn Nelson

Katelyn Nelson

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Katelyn Nelson’s writing interests lean mostly toward pop culture analysis and representation. She tweets @24th_Doctor, mostly about horror.