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
Wednesday 21 April 2010
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?
Is the comedy album making a comeback?comedy
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Britain's Got Talent and The X Factor 'wheel on people who have mental health problems' says comedian Jo Brand
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
Guardians Of The Galaxy, review: Marvel-lite movie feels half-hearted
Fifty Shades of Grey film stills
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss