Bantam, £12.99 Order for £11.69 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Blood Harvest By SJ Bolton

A killer mix that reaps rewards

Does your repertoire of quotes from Nietzsche consist only of the shop-worn "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"? If so, it's time to add a second (rapidly moving up the Nietzschean hit parade): the one about avoiding battling monsters for fear of becoming a monster yourself, along with its chaser: if you gaze into the abyss, it will also gaze into you. The latter idea makes a reappearance in S J Bolton's frisson-generating Blood Harvest. It's hardly surprising that this aphorism is so popular with crime writers: after all, it's basically a paradigm for the genre in the 21st century.

What makes Blood Harvest such a satisfyingly atmospheric 400-odd pages, however, is its clever synthesis of two surefire strategies: the slow-burning supernatural mystery in which the dark secret of a town or community is gradually uncovered by a vulnerable protagonist; and the dark psychological crime narrative. Bolton (or her editor) is no doubt aware that the supernatural market is a limited one (unless you're Stephen King or Stephenie Meyer), and performs some deft surgery in stitching together the two approaches.

Tom Fletcher is 10 years old and has moved with his family to a secluded village, Heptonclough, on the moors. Things quickly turn sour: a series of childish pranks begins, mostly directed at Tom, but these incidents shift into the dangerous and threatening. Is someone trying to drive the family away? And is young Tom correct in thinking that somebody is always watching him?

This basic premise is handled with assurance by Bolton, whose previous books, Sacrifice and Awakening (while markedly less ambitious), signalled the arrival of a talented, popular writer. Bolton's locale, the cloistered Heptonclough, is laid out with geographical exactitude, and her evocation of a landscape fraught with dread and foreboding is sure-footed.

But perhaps Blood Harvest scores most strongly in how the author presents the action, which we see from three perspectives; that of the new vicar of the town, Harry Laycock; the youthful victim, Tom Fletcher; and a child psychiatrist, Evi Oliver, who is commissioned to work with the beleaguered family. Bolton's use in earlier books of a strong, capable female protagonist was able enough, if hardly groundbreaking; the split focus here illuminates the narrative in a variety of surprising ways. But despite this approach, Bolton is a solid, old-fashioned writer – and what higher praise could one give her?

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power