The bestselling author of Richard & Judy Book Club hit The Cold Season returns with a chilling mystery – where superstition and myth bleed into real life with tragic consequences.
Pretty Lizzie Higgs is gone, burned to dead on her own hearth – but was she really a changeling, as her husband insists? Albie Mirralls met his cousin only once, in 1851, within the grand glass arches of the Crystal Palace, but unable to countenance the rumours that surround her murder, he leaves his young wife in London and travels to Halfoak, a village steeped in superstition.
Albie begins to look into Lizzie’s death, but in this place where the old tales hold sway and the ‘Hidden People’ supposedly roam, answers are slippery and further tragedy is just a step away . . .
I love the cover of this book. I really really do and it was one of the main reasons I chose to request this book on NetGalley (Thanks!)
Of course, the promise of superstition was one I could not resist either. Superstition is somewhat present in my life at times, as well… It’s the small automatic actions that I do or try to avoid doing because of that niggling voice at the back of my head. Most of us ‘touch wood’ and ‘spit over the shoulder’ to ‘ward off evil spirits’. Examples are many- I always take care not to put my socks on inside out. Not because of OCD (well, then again, if I didn’t have superstition then it would be OCD), but because an inside out sock means asking trouble for the day. When I leave the house and realize I forgot something behind, then going back is also bad luck… but of course, I have to go back to the house for the forgotten item. Before leaving the house again it’s said I have to look in the mirror and run my hand through my hair. And I do… and I always look at myself in the mirror and think- Jaysus, girl, you truly are nuts, what the ever loving feck are you doing?! But… I do it every time.
Going back to the book, however… While I have to admit that it was what felt the longest 384 pages, the novel did deliver a certain charm. The writing is similar to 19th century classical books and that’s well done because the story is set in the 19th century. The descriptions of inns, village life and mannerisms covered the historical fiction aspect to a T.
So, yes, the writing was well thought out and really prim and proper, even when it wasn’t prim and proper in the case of Yorkshire accent. The scene setting was delivered with precision. All well and good, all major plus points to the book and author- a masterpiece in that sense.
What I didn’t like, was the fact that I found the first half of the book, up to 56%, dragging like snot behind a snail. I mean, we’re ‘dancing’ around organising a funeral for 20%… I was bewildered and just wanted to get to the point. Just move on. Let’s just move on! The introduction to the whole superstitious village life was, while necessary, totally overdone in my opinion. However…. However, looking at it from another angle, it does add that charm I mentioned earlier.
When I mentioned the superb writing, absurdly, I think this book is a gloomy stop and smell the roses kind of read. It’s totally like being stuck in the darkest pits of depression while trying to appreciate everything that is beautiful- the beautiful day, the beautiful lady/perhaps fairy… The time stops completely, as a reader you’re forced to take in all the sounds and sights…You’ll constantly question who’s bonkers and whether you’ll actually meet a real fairy in the story. I did consider not finishing the book about 3 times but I persisted… Yet, even when the action picked up half way through, there was still so much filler stuff in between. I guess that was the impatient side of me. I can see how this book could possibly gain wide recognition because if it wasn’t published in October 2016 but rather in early 1900s, it would easily be one of the classics now.
Albie… The book starts off with a glimpse into 1851 when Albie and Lizzie meet, their first and their last time. Some years later, both have moved on with their lives and have gotten married. Albie finds out from his father however, that Lizzie is now dead. Burned. You see, even though those two only met once and are cousins I got the feeling, if given half a chance, these two would have settled down and had a herd of kids. It’s this fascination that seems to have taken over Albie, a vision that he has of Lizzie that spurs him on no matter how many times he insists that it’s a cousin’s duty to stand by family, even if they’re dead… Albie is determined to find out what happened to Lizzie so he packs up, leaves his wife behind and travels to Lizzie’s village Halfoak.
Albie’s wife Helena however follows him because a wife’s place is next to her husband and things just take a strange turn. Has Lizzie been taken by the fairies and will she really return from the hollow hill upon a full moon? Will Albie’s and Helena’s relationship survive in this village where everyone seems to believe in fairies? Furthermore- does Helena start acting strange to offer a Lizzie-replacement to Albie or have the fairies taken her mind? Who is crazy and what is real?
Unfortunately, there is also something a bit more sinister going on… The hidden people dance and sing. They steal babies and people, and leave changelings behind instead. Is there a way to reverse a fairy spell? How far are the villagers ready to go, what actions are the villagers ready to take to get their loved ones back from the Fairy Hill? Or is all the fairy talk just a load of nonsense? Lizzie’s journal is just the item to answer all these questions.
Overall: I stand by my word- the writing is absolutely worthy of a medal. It is… The piece of history that helped sow the seed for this story is fascinating and well executed, however… my rating for this book is 3 ***… I liked it. I wanted to give it 2** at first- It was OK- simply because reading it tired me out and I could not wait to be done with it. I was chasing the entertainment element. The bonus star will be awarded for the wonderful writing.