The feeling is tingling and immediate when you realise that you have discovered something truly good. And it happened with this book. And it started at the beginning.
It has everything that makes a great novel: suspense, mystery, ghosts, murder, folk-horror, atmosphere, solid and likable but unusual characters, tortured souls, vulnerable baddies, gothic setting, identifiable situations and places. There is a darkness that includes events from history - the burning of heretics in Tudor times, common in this area - and missing children from a few decades ago. Secrets everyone in the idyllic rural village know about but only hint at (especially after a few beers).
The story is about a single-parent vicar, who is transferred abruptly to a a hamlet far removed from the city in which they work, Nottingham. The social issues that the vicar was involved in are painful memories, and they will bubble to the surface again, no doubt. The main hook though, is the strange tradition of making twiggy figures to represent the martyrs who were burned under the orders of Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary. These effigies are left in the cemetery. There are plenty of odd goings-on around the chapel and its ancient graveyard and lots of people, some much darker than others.
The priest is a great creation. Modern and witty with a few little endearing vices that make this story a joy to read. Mostly told from the vicar's perspective in the first person alongside the teenage daughter's point of view, there is a good balance of interaction between the generations. However, the story also runs parallel with someone else's. Fresh out of prison and living rough, we know their lives will connect at some point. This journey is very disturbing.
A riveting, unsettling and brilliant book. Highly recommended.
Published by Penguin Michael Joseph Ltd. on 21 January 2021.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.