Fancy a juicy gothic thriller to curl up with on a dark winter’s night? Well I have just the thing for you here.

Pine, published in 2020, is the first novel from Scottish author, poet and editor Francine Toon and is a great spine-tingler for a December evening.

Set in a small village surrounded by forest in the Scottish Highlands, this novel oozes the atmosphere of the woods and the claustrophobia that can come from living surrounded by just a small number of people.

Lauren is ten years old and lives with her father Niall on the edge of the forest just outside the village. Her mother disappeared years ago, shortly after she was born. Villagers gossip about whether she walked out on her little family or whether Niall got rid of her. Niall, for his part, spends too much time sunk in a whiskey bottle, neglecting the house and also Lauren, who is also bullied at school.

The book opens on Hallowe’en. Niall and Lauren are driving home after she has been trick or treating when a woman stumbles into the road in front of them. Niall takes the stranger home but in the morning she is gone.

Then a teenager from the village goes missing and time is running out to try and find her.

This is part thriller, part horror and deftly combines chilling moments with page-turning mystery.

Here we have a great gothic-style ghost story combined with a modern whodunnit. And the characters are teased from the page beautifully and the atmosphere of hamlet life described so gloriously that you can taste the hihgland forest air and feel the cold.

This is a tale about grief and isolation, about loneliness and loss. Is there such a thing as modern gothic? If there is, this is it.

I took my time at the start of this book, soaking in the atmosphere and allowing myself to become absorbed… and then raced through the final couple of chapters, desperate to know the solution to the mystery.

It was all very satisfying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: