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1844: The talk is of witches
1844: The talk is of witches
The talk is of witches. A boy has vanished in the woods of Trethevy on the North Cornish coast, and a reward is offered for his return. Shilly has had enough of such dark doings, but her new companion, the woman who calls herself Anna Drake, insists they investigate. Anna wants to open a detective agency, and the reward would fund it. They soon learn of a mysterious pair of strangers who have likely taken the boy, and of Saint Nectan who, legend has it, kept safe the people of the woods. As Shilly and Anna seek the missing child, the case takes another turn – murder. Something is stirring in the woods and old sins have come home to roost.
The characters are fictional but the spooky story is very much real! The author was inspired by a legend known as ‘Th eLadies of St Nectan’s Glen” from a Daphine Du Maurier Book, Vanishing Cornwall. In this book, Du Maurier recounts the story of a mysterious pair of women who set up home in woodland near Boscastle. Non one knows who they are. They speak a strange language. One day, someone spies though the window of the women’s cottage and sees that one of them has died. Her companion is distraught but will not speak. The dead woman is taken away for burial, as is decent, and her companion remains in the cottage, wasting away, until one day she is found very still in her chair before the fire. Her hand hangs close to the floor, as if she is reaching for the handkerchief that has fallen there. But her hand will never reach the handkerchief: the poor creature is dead. And the case? A broken heart. No one is any the wiser as to why the women came to the woods.”
This was the image which stayed in the author’s mind and which involved to the story of The Magpie Tree. The place of St Nectan’s Glen has had several names over the years including The Haunted Valley…
Anna in the novel talks about how poets are responsible for the legends. There are penty of them in the book as well – witches, noises in the forests, the various plunge pools and of course, the waterfall.
The sequel to Falling Creatures but come to this as a standalone as there are plenty of literary amuse-bouches to tempt the palate and give you an idea of the flavours to come: “The day I went to Jamaica Inn was the day I saw a man hanged”
Throughout the novel, the language is rich and evocative – the use of Cornish dialect adding to the overall feel of the story. And this story is all about Shilly and Anna. Shilly – now there’s a name which conjures up chills and secrets. And she doesn’t disappoint – seeing visions and acting as the more sensitive one of the two. Anna is more pragmatic but they complement each other really well and have a nice relationship I enjoyed reading about. They join forces to investigate strange goings on and as the reader you feel like the third one in the group, and no way the third spoke in the wheel. It’s all very immersive and fascinating to follow
They head to Trethevy to search for a missing local bowl. Some local women are suspected of having used witchcraft or some such to spirit away the child. Now that’s when the novel gets really interesting and creepily gothic!
Both this and Falling Creatures highly recommended!
Destination : Cornwall Author/Guide: Katherine Stansfield Departure Time: 1844Back to Results
1938: Sometimes the secrets of the past are more dangerous than the present…Read more