Leave the lights on while reading this story of ritual magic, deep, dark woods and gruesome murder.
London journalist, Elspeth Reeves, is having a very bad, no-good week. After redundancy and a cheating boyfriend leave her homeless and jobless she returns to her mother in the village of Wilsby-under-Wychwood only to walk straight into a crime scene. A grisly murder has taken place in the woods behind her family’s home.
With help from Peter, her childhood-friend-turned-local-detective, Elspeth starts reporting on the killing to kickstart her freelance career. The pair team up to uncover the truth behind the ritualistic murder.
Myth and magic
This novel is a real page turner. Elspeth’s unrealistic but convenient habit of stumbling across a dead body or clue every time she leaves the house keeps the plot going at fast pace. She quickly links the ongoing killings to a local legend of the Carrion King, introducing a supernatural element. The author throws in snippets from the murderer’s perspective, as they carry out attacks that mix magic with conventional creepiness.
George Mann has written a proactive, female protagonist and likable main characters. The magical element makes a strong addition to an otherwise conventional plot. If I have one issue here, it’s that the supernatural is never fully explored. I hope this topic will be covered in more depth in the sequel.
The author comes up with clever quick-fixes to work around less realistic elements of the novel. Police detective Peter has a ‘results based’ boss, allowing him to sneak Elspeth into interviews with minimal backlash, as long as the investigation (and the story!) keep moving forward.
This novel wraps up with a satisfyingly big ending where we learn whodunnit and the murderer’s horrifying back story. That’s as much as I’m willing to share. If you want to know more, read the book!
Verdict: The police procedure may be shaky but the supernatural killings are suitably sinister, and I loved the mixture of myth and magic. Personally, I’d have enjoyed a bigger final twist but I’m looking forward to reading Elspeth’s next adventure in Hallowdene, the sequel to Wychwood. With luck, it’s a sign this will be an ongoing series!