Somewhere in the Black House is a presence so intrusive and unexpected it must be a ghost. Alfred Munday, an anthropologist, and his wife, Emma, have left Africa after a long period in a tiny, remote village. They arrive in an English village deep in the Dorset countryside and almost immediately sense the haunting presence of a lovely woman neither of them can name. Their marriage has been made uneasy by their African experience and they do not confide their suspicions.
The menacing tension mounts as Emma receives strange commands from the spectral woman, but it is left to Alfred to carry out the commands and manage the complex bewilderments of this new village with its mood of threat. In doing so, he begins to understand how his marriage and study have exiled him and how a return home means a return to older fears and desires.
Terror and the lurking of what seems supernatural in that most ghostly of places -- the English country house -- are the keynotes of this remarkable novel. But it is more than a bewitching ghost story. It is about marriage, isolation and the kind of elemental response that pervades our most civilized acts. Mr. Theroux’s gift for describing the comic side of colonial displacement has been celebrated. Here, in this latest novel, he deals with the extreme anxiety that underlies all comedy, revealing a wholly convincing portrait of a haunted man. In The Black Rouse, he has revitalized a traditional tale to say as much about our age and its discontents as it does about the origin of our fears.