The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps by Michel  Faber
(Canongate, 1999)

The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps

by Michel Faber

Sian, tired of nightmares in which she meets a grisly end, decides she needs to get out more, so she joins an archaeological dig at Whitby Abbey. What she finds is a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a man with big hands, a fragile manuscript in a bottle, and a rather attractive dog called Hadrian. Faber’s dazzling novella takes us up the 199 steps in Whitby that link the 21st century with the ruins of the past. Equal and indissoluble parts thriller, romance, historical/ghost story and meditation on the nature of sincerity, this is an ingenious literary page-turner. Atmospheric photographs complement the text beautifully. This book, like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, deploys a masterful sense of ambiguity, outstanding narrative power, works on many levels and, as always with Faber’s writing, is elegant, thought-provoking, distinctive and compelling.

Reviews

Engrossing . . . the writing is spare and evocative and Si├ón's slow return to health is powerfully wrought. ”
- The Times
Visits the strangest of places and makes them real. ”
- Scotsman
With impressive subtlety and economy, Faber raises questions about . . . the way in which the past haunts the present and the invisible undercurrents lying beneath human relations.”
- Evening Standard
This is a man who would give Conrad a run at writing the perfect sentence...Room will now have to be made at Faber alongside Alasdair Gray, James Kelman, Irvine Welsh and A.L. Kennedy.”
- The Guardian
Faber's disconcerting vision, his instinctive feel for pace and suspense, and his vision of an upside-down existence are too unsettling and too finely drawn to be knocked off course.”
- Bella Bathurst, The Herald
As well as possessing imaginative gifts, Michel Faber is a writer of unusual skill...Strong satire in the Swiftian tradition, rendered with outstanding narrative power - genuinely horrible and down-right weird.”
- Time Out
Faber's approach throughout the novel is unashamedly adventurous and eclectic. If he were a lesser writer, his feverish imagination could have got him into quite a muddle. he successfully avoids this because he has fine judgment and is a consummate showman.”
- The Spectator