Published by The Accipiter Corporation
“The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith” by Martin Adil-Smith is a brilliant little story set within the confines of a lighthouse. From the very first line, “My Darling Wife — I did not do it,” I was intrigued. There is only one thing a proclamation like that can mean in a story like this: The character might have done it. It’s a bold promise to the reader that all may not be as it seems, and Adil-Smith did not disappoint.
Written in the first person as a letter to Griffith’s loving wife, this short story is the accounting of the final days of two lighthouse keepers, Griffith and his co-worker, Howell. They are cut off from civilization by virtue of their location and a hellish storm that bears down on them. Soon, Howell, also Griffith’s love rival, meets an untimely death; and from there things spiral downhill.
Although the plot is not wholly original (if I have any complaints, that would be it), the story is well written enough to keep me interested. Adil-Smith is a master at atmosphere, painting a picture so dark and vivid it is hard to look away. One of my favorite visuals is that of a smiling corpse, detailed enough to create a striking image, but not overwritten.
In many ways the style of “The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith” reminds me of HP Lovecraft’s writing. It is also reminiscent of Clark Ashton Smith’s earlier works. It harkens back to a period when authors didn’t rush, building horror one brick at a time from a sense of suspense and dark atmosphere. There are no cheap jump scares in this short story; nor are there untold amounts of gore trying to shock the reader into believing there’s a semblance of plot. Adil-Smith arrives at horror with a disturbing sense of foreboding and just enough detail to weave tendrils through the reader’s mind of more sinister things lying just below the surface.
A common problem with short stories is that they often seem like a snippet from a scene. There is no end, so to speak, and they feel cut off, as though more should be there. But this story does not suffer from that problem. Although I could see it being expanded into a novel, it’s sufficiently self-contained and does not feel lacking.
Overall, “The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith” is a creepy, fun, and quick read that I’m confident most readers will enjoy. If this story is any indication of the rest of Adil-Smith’s writing, his other works should be fantastic; and he has a fan in me.