Genre: Gothic thriller
They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.
Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.
In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.
Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.
In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.
'Hugely atmospheric, exquisitely written and utterly gripping.' Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party
This book was a slow burn for me, exquisitely written and completely mesmerising. I was drawn in by the stunning front cover to begin with, and I love a story that encapsulates nature, remote settings and some kind of mystical or mysterious element.
I felt that the narrative began almost with a 'slice of life' feeling. I enjoy that style of writing, though it wasn't what I had expected from this. The joy with this novel is that the suspense builds without you really realising … It crawls underneath your skin and rests there as you read, making you feel captivated as you learn more about the characters while a sense of unease grows within your imagination.
We follow Lauren and her father Niall, having learned that her mother disappeared long ago. We learn quickly that Niall is struggling with life and I felt a huge sense of empathy for him. He lost the love of his life and the rest of the town feels suspicious of him.
I ached for both of these characters, with their vulnerabilities and flaws. When a local teen goes missing, the plot becomes more intense and almost mystical. I adored feeling both compelled to keep reading while savouring the story and not wanting it to end.
Last year, I read and reviewed The Den by Abi Maxwell and English Animals by Laura Kaye and through these I discovered a love of writing that evokes a sense of nature and atmosphere. I felt that Francine Toon achieved the same here and I'm so thrilled to have had the chance to be involved in the promotion of such an incredibly spellbinding novel.
Thanks to Penguin Random House for sending me a copy for review, and to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the blog tour - have you seen the reviews from these other bloggers?