Opening sentence: “They are driving out for guising when they see her.”
Welcome to my stop on the Pine blog tour! Written by Francine Toon, this is an atmospheric little gem that keeps you guessing until the end. It is an addictive blend of the Gothic and crime fiction genres – two of my favourites as it happens, so you could say this book was right up my (dark, isolated) street.
Set in an remote area of northern Scotland (ticking all those gothic convention boxes), this is the story of ten year old Lauren who lives with her dad, Niall. Her mum, Christine disappeared under mysterious circumstances years before and her vanishing has had a haunting effect on both Lauren and her father. Although her father loves her, he is struggling with life now and Lauren often finds herself somewhat abandoned, which is heartbreaking.
Other people in their village view their circumstances suspiciously and this puts a constant pressure on them. Lauren is a very endearing character though; she has had to grow up quickly due to her circumstances and while I often just wanted to give her a big hug, I was always rooting for her.
The tense, brooding atmosphere is built up steadily throughout, overall the pace is not fast but that all added to the feel for me. Even when the action ramps up towards the end, its still deliciously languid compared to many other novels. This worked to give a very controlled touch to the story and support the supernatural elements. Speaking of… I really enjoyed how Pine constantly pulled at the threads of reality; are the ghostly elements literal, figurative or just there to be downright spooky? It’s a tightrope act to convey this with the ease that this book does, so its very impressive.
I didn’t guess the ending at all, which is always a great feeling and adds a certain satisfaction. Pine is one of the most sophisticated stories I’ve read in a while, the perfect tale for these dark winter evenings.
/ Published by Doubleday 23rd January 2020
/ 336 pages
/ Rating: 4/5