Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book review: Wychwood by George Mann

Title: Wychwood
Author: George Mann
Release date: 12 September 2017
Publisher: Titan
Genre: Crime
Source: Bought

Description: After losing her job and her partner in one fell swoop, journalist Elspeth Reeves is back in her mother's house in the sleepy village of Wilsby-Under-Wychwood, wondering where it all went wrong. Then a body is found in the neighbouring Wychwood: a woman ritually slaughtered, with cryptic symbols scattered around her corpse. 
Elspeth recognizes these from a local myth of the Carrion King, a Saxon magician who once held a malevolent court ddp in the forest. As more murders follow, Elspeth joins her childhood friend DS Peter Shaw to investigate, and the two discover sinister village secrets harking back decades. 

My thoughts: The story begins with Elspeth pulling up to her mum's house, come to stay for a while, only to find that police have blocked off the road. No one is allowed into the crime scene area, but Elspeth pops through her house and hops over the wall at the bottom of their garden. While sneaking around, she not only sees the body, but also bumps into her childhood friend Peter, now a police officer.

I really liked Elspeth as a character. She's warm and relatable, and determined to get back on her feet after the blow that sent her back to her mum's. She works hard, and her curiosity almost always gets the better of her. Wychwood is a fairly standard police investigation into a string of murders, with Elspeth accompanying Peter as he interviews several people who might be able to shed light on things.

It's a really good book, I was hooked early on, but I was disappointed by the lack of magic or fantasy elements in the book. I guess I went into it expecting something more like Ben Aaronovitch or Paul Cornell's books, where police discover that there's magic in the world, and the magical becomes a big part of the story. In Wychwood, the only reason the reader knows that magic is definitely involved is because of occasional short interludes from the killer's point of view. I'd also hoped that it might be the start of a series, but while there can easily be more cases for Elspeth and Peter, I'm not sure how believably anything magical could be tied to the town again, after the events of Wychwood.

All in all, I did enjoy Wychwood a lot, and have been recommending it to people, but it wasn't quite the book I was expecting when I started reading. A page-turning crime thriller set in a cosy English town, this book is a perfect autumn read, particularly with Halloween coming up. I'm giving it 7/10, but I'll be more cautious going into future books by George Mann.


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