This book was sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
11.09.18 / Titan Books / Mythology-Horror / Paperback / 400pp / 978-1783294114
Target Audience: Readers who love a good murder mystery shrouded in folklore and local mythology. Multiple protagonists and plenty of twists.
Elspeth May, a young female journalist who never seems to be in the right place at the right time, suddenly gets her big break – only to find that no one will ever believe her story…
Wychwood is a series of mystery novels that explore the darker side of myths and legends in the heart of Britain’s old country. Set in and around a handful of fictional towns and villages in rural Oxfordshire, all within the boundaries of the ancient forest of Wychwood, the series follows the young female journalist Elspeth May as she teams up with police constable Peter Shaw to explore local crimes, which inevitably transpire to have their origins in myths and folklore. Rich with the fauna of British myths and legends, the books marry the cosy British tone of Midsomer Murders and Lewis with modern tales of the supernatural.
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Hallowdene is yet another mesmerising and chilling mythological mystery from the supreme talent, George Mann. Turning his attention away from his steampunk roots and pursuing an unforgettable folklore inspired crime-mystery series was a smart plan as I am really enjoying this series. Elspeth and Peter are back again to face a new string of murders this time centred around the long dead Hallowdene Witch, Agnes Levett. In the 17th century, Agnes was sent to the gallows after being caught supposedly performing a sacrificial murder. Before being executed, Agnes warns the town they will pay for their actions. Several mysterious deaths follow her burial so the town decide to confine her remains underneath a Witch Stone to ward of her spirit.
The town’s Hallowdene Summer Fayre is a communal acknowledgement of this history (and a way to drum up tourism). To enrich the upcoming festival, a TV documentary is made about Agnes, and the Witch Stone is lifted and her grave site is excavated to display the remains as part of the event. But is it just her bones that are released from under the stone? When multiple locals are brutally murdered in unconnected ways, the town fears that history is repeating itself and Agnes is exacting her revenge. Journalist Elspeth Reeves and DC Peter Shaw are just starting to miss the excitement surrounding their last case, The Carrion King. They are soon plunged deep into another mysterious investigation that will test their perception of reality once again. Can they reveal the truth in time to save those involved?
There is a lot to love about Hallowdene. It is a cool, classic folklore mystery with a solid and familiar basis. This kind of story isn’t really new but George Mann is an accomplished story teller who has brought us an excellent and refined version that definitely packs his signature punch. It was good to be back with Elspeth and Peter again for another case. My review of Wychwood was very positive and I am glad to say Hallowdene is just as enjoyable and hooked me in with ease. I can’t get enough of these stories of obsession, revenge, local history, folklore and unexplainable truths.
It was interesting to see how well George Mann mirrored the past and present in this story as it gave us some indirect insights into what happened all those years ago. I liked the addition of Daisy’s character into the mix as well but I am not going to elaborate too much on her involvement. Daisy’s story arc is fascinating and cause for supposition, providing plenty of head-spinning moments. I appreciate the fact that once again George Mann left the circumstances surrounding the story slightly cloudy, reality wise, leaving me interpret matters my own way.
George Mann is pure talent and Hallowdene is an accomplished mystery novel. Maintaining the secrets right until the last pages. I have to laugh because, in places, this is by far the most mellow murder mystery novel I have ever read. The narrative is well paced but there are sections of this book where you forget about the witch all together. Personally I liked this because (I never thought I would say this) I find Peter and Elspeth’s relationship fun and charming. I know right…
In the second/third acts we get plenty of intensity as things become less cosy and more violent. But saying all this, the approach that GM took to Hallowdene highlights all the reasons I keep coming back to his work. GM is a genius when it comes to changing the atmosphere of his work at the drop of a pin. GM can keep a secret, he is not bursting to reveal his hand early on but does keep the reader informed just enough to leave their mind reeling and influence doubt and faith in characters. Finally George Mann appreciates mythology, mysteries and folklore which is great for me. Agnes Levett’s story is a classic one but GM does it justice. The town are scared of her for good reason and it was thrilling to see her legacy unfold all the centuries after her death. My only gripe with this novel is it is just lacking some extra depth in certain places that could have been way more insightful but that is greedy me, always looking for more details.
Hallowdene and Wychwood are novels you won’t regret delving into and I hope there are more instalments on the horizon. I am just as immersed in the lore as Elspeth was and I can’t wait to see what GM brings us next. This is, unsurprisingly, a standout Halloween read, just a shame it is almost Christmas right now.
About George Mann
George Mann is the author of the Newbury and Hobbes and The Ghost series of novels, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and audiobooks. He has written fiction and audio scripts for the BBC’s Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. He is also a respected anthologist and has edited The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy. He lives near Grantham, UK.
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