Publication Date: 20th November 2014 from Orion.
Source: Publisher Advance Review Copy.
When Lindy, a recently widowed American expat, buys a large manor house in the Cotswolds, she thinks it’s the fresh start she and her wayward daughter Izzy need. Stagcote Manor is a large, rambling house with a rich history and Lindy is thrilled at the prospect of their new life there. When Izzy begins to investigate the history of the house, her unease soon darkens to fear as the manor’s dark past finally comes to light.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story – a haunting and clever read, intriguing characterisation and a flowing engaging tale following Lindy and Izzy as they move into a new home and discover the myths and legends surrounding it.
Izzy is annoyed and upset at having to move to the country, having had some problems her Mother decides a new start is in order. Stagcote Manor may not be the best choice however, as a dark curse apparently haunts those who live there…
The theme of Superstition and belief is very well done here – how much our own beliefs influence us, how sometimes seemingly small things can change our perspective – I found it fascinating stuff as Izzy, starting off with a sceptical point of view, is slowly but surely drawn down the rabbit hole and becomes more and more convinced that she and Lindy are in grave danger. The author weaves a web around her, allowing different interpretations of events and grounding the tale in reality whilst leaving open endless possibiities.
I have to say that I did not always like Izzy – she often came across as an entitled brat but she also has a sympathetic side – a troubled teen who takes her frustrations out on her long suffering Mother, the relationship between this pair is one of the best things about the story. Even taking away the more mystical aspects, as a snapshot view it is also a coming of age tale. Izzy is forced by a series of seemingly odd happenings to grow up and develop a better appreciation of Lindy and the sacrifices she has made.
Added to that there is the village and its occupants – the author manages to create a tense and off kilter atmosphere to the community as a whole, again allowing Izzy to tell the tale but the reader to interpret for themselves – they are a strange and eclectic bunch with old and far reaching traditions that pull Izzy and her family ever further into the mire. The tension racks up in a very addictive and creepy way, the sense of place is simply terrific, I was left with a distinctly uneasy feeling every time I put this down to do something else. Also in my opinion, the ending was absolutely perfect, I shook my head as I finally put this aside then picked it up and read the end again…always a good sign.
For me this was a bit like a homage to “The Wicker Man” ( the movie based on Ritual by David Piner) – that was what it put me in mind of while I was reading, even though the two tales are VERY different, atmospherically speaking the pervading sense of menace it induced in me as a reader was very much the same as I experienced years ago watching the fantastic Edward Woodward trying to untangle the minutae of Summerisle – so in a way this was a nostalgic read, old school storytelling at its best.
Overall then an excellent reading experience that could be marketed as Young Adult or Adult and would definitely be enjoyed by both – Recommended for fans of mystery with a magical edge.
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Happy Reading Folks!