Written by: Matt Molgaard
The quiet village of Darnshaw holds appeal. It’s a small close knit community with some history for Cass. It’s been years since she called Darnshaw home, but after the death of her husband – who was killed in military combat – Cass definitely needs a fresh start, and a return to her childhood territory seems an ideal place to begin putting the pieces back together and rediscovering normalcy in life. It certainly feels like the right thing to do, if not for her, then for her troubled young son, Ben. But there’s something dark and evil that waits in Darnshaw and both Cass and Ben are about to stumble right into a potentially fatal situation that simply cannot be prepared for.
If that synopsis doesn’t sound like a tasty morsel of horrific greatness, apply your index and middle finger to the inside of your wrist and feel for a pulse. If that fails, hit the neck and aim for the carotid, maybe it’s just faint and you’re near death, you’d have to be to find no intrigue in a story of this nature. The narrative bleeds black emotion and as a reader it isn’t too difficult in admitting that it will leave you choked up from time to time. There are some supremely eerie sequences that unravel as the story progresses, and each seems to be fused with an evenly balanced measure of fright, paranoia and pure melancholy. And that’s part of what makes this novel such an astounding success, it’s as heart breaking as it is frightening, and it’s guaranteed to leave an unrelenting knot in the belly.
Littlewood’s tendency to place heavy emphasis on the story’s scenic qualities is magnificent, lending a sense of the vintage to a contemporary and quite relevant tale. There are moments in the novel in which Darnshaw feels every bit as menacing (one specific trek across a surrounding moor is absolutely paralyzing) as the odd assortment of characters who take up residence in the region. And, given the despicability of a few of the focal players, that’s a powerful statement. Littlewood also manufactures a legitimately organic relationship between Cass and Ben, a quality that even established greats often botch. To be honest, I don’t know too much about Alison Littlewood, but I’ll say this: it’s hard to imagine this woman isn’t a mother herself.
This West Yorkshire resident has created a gripping piece of fiction that draws the emotions of the genre fan taut, and completely tears at the fibers of those who also happen to be parents. I know, I’ve got a soon-to-be 12 year old and I couldn’t shake the idea of my daughter facing the turmoil that young Ben is forced to experience. A hypothetical nightmare, and it climbs right under the skin. When it comes to debut novels, Littlewood offers forth a masterpiece that stakes immediately claim as one of 2013’s finest.
Make your pre-orders here, you won’t regret it.