Reviews, Scottish Reads


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.

As a general rule, I’m not a big reader of horror or spooky and scary books. This book won the McIlvanney Prize last year so I saw it advertised and bought it…then put it on the shelf for a year because my TBR shelf is a little out of control. In my attempt to read more books by Scottish authors, I decided to read this because it was so far from my usual sort of read. I really enjoyed this book and gave it 4 stars. There seems to be a theme where I buy books, wait ages to read them and then I adore them.

This book was like a folktale mixed in with reality. The book was set in the Highlands during modern day but there were many references to goings on which felt like a story told around a camp fire or told by an older relative with the goal of scaring the kids. This book was haunting and creepy. I had gotten it into my head that this was a horror novel but it was actually gothic which is something I do enjoy. This book was such am unexpected treat (I did hope to enjoy it, I just didn’t expect to enjoy it so much)

The main character in this book was Lauren who was ten years old and was just a sweetheart. She lived with her father, who struggled with alcohol and secrets. It was so sad the way that he kept such an important part of her life from her. Lauren was a lonely child with one friend but she was often tormented during her school day.

Right at the beginning, we were introduced to a mysterious woman and so many questions were raised. I really enjoyed the parts with this woman as it was so chilling to read.

Lauren’s bullying was described in such an honest and realistic way that I found myself getting so angry at her tormentor. That poor kid just took everything as she didn’t have anyone who she felt she could tell. I loved that Lauren did have adults who looked out for her as her father was neglectful at times.

When Anne-Marie went missing I was convinced that I knew what had happened. I was so wrong! As usual.

This book mixed together the story of a young girl, a witch in the woods, a missing woman, and a missing teen. These themes were moulded together perfectly! I really enjoyed each of the plots in this novel, I was worried that I would be left with many unanswered questions but everything was revealed, slowly and beautifully.

The writing in this book was very beautiful and despite the subject matter, this book was so enjoyable to read. I’m so happy that I read this book even thought I thought it was something out of my comfort zone. I really do recommend this book, if you are looking for a hauntingly, chilling read set in the Scottish Highlands-give this a read.

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