Author: Lindsay Barraclough
Release date: 7th April 2011
Genre: horror/thriller/young adult
Target audience: 12+
UK Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
When Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Bryers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome, and are desperate to go back to London. But Auntie Ida's life was devastated the last time two young girls were at Guerdon Hall, and now her nieces' arrival has reawoken an evil that has lain waiting for years. A haunting voice in an empty room ...A strange, scarred man lurking in the graveyard ...A mysterious warning, scrawled on the walls of the abandoned church ...Along with Roger and Peter, two young village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries - before it is too late for Mimi.
Long Lankin is a chilling story based on an English folk song about a man called Lankin who murdered a child and his mother with a witch's help. Both the song and the novel tell a haunting story that can definitely make the hairs rise on your skin.
At the end of the 1960s, Cora and her little sister Mimi have to leave London to stay with their mother's Auntie Ida due to certain family issues. It is clear from the start that they are not welcome at Guerdon Hall, the home of their aunt. Luckily, the girls find friends in the village of Bryers Guerdon - Roger and his younger brother Pete.
Auntie Ida forbids many things to the girls: they must never open the windows in the house, they must never roam certain parts of the house, they must never go to the almost abandoned old church, and so on and so forth. Mimi seems to adapt to the new situation quickly, but Cora is curious and wants to get to the bottom of certain things that Auntie Ida said. She cannot stand the mystery and she feels it's important that she solve it. When they break one rule and go to the church, they see a strange man that frightens the children and it is then that Cora begins to investigate the strange rumours in the village and the family history. What she discovers is shocking and terrifying.
The story is told from three points of view: Cora's, Roger's and Auntie Ida's. This really gives the reader a good idea about what is going on in the book. All the main characters are really well outlined. Cora is a thinker, a determined and curious girl who wants to find out the truth. Roger is a carefree local boy who wants to help her, as he has questions of his own. He has a big family, so he is able to forget things at times, which at times irritates Cora, but together they make a great team. Auntie Ida is a haunted, deeply wounded woman with a tragic history who wants to put the past behind her, but certain things never rest. These characters make the story very dynamic and keep a healthy pace. The novel also features a great, scary villain who is really well outlined and described.
I loved the atmosphere of the novel. It is both very English and very Gothic. There is a lot of suspense and tension that build gradually and definitely reach a very exciting peak, and the very last chapter is so gripping and chilling that it left me with dry mouth. The author really handled the story so very well and transformed the folk song about Long Lankin into a true thriller that is as much a delight to read as it is scary. There are elements of family drama, of history and of the supernatural, and I really got the sense of a typical English village somewhere in a marshy area where superstitions and legends are often more than just a rumour. This is a true English ghost story that might make you look for monsters under your bed.
I was a bit disappointed with the very ending. Everything was resolved, but I still have some questions. However, the main elements reached a dramatic conclusion that left me satisfied and slightly shaken because of its intensity. I'm afraid I have to be vague because I really don't wish to give away anything and spoil the fun, but I can tell you that this is a suspenseful, scary ghost story, yet highly enjoyable. It's a veritable page-turner.
I'd like to end this review with a few lines from the folk song, to give you an idea (a few stanzas are included before the first chapter begins):
Said my lord to my lady, as he rode away:
"Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the hay."
"Let the doors be all bolted and the windows all pinned,
And leave not a hole for a mouse to creep in."
So he pricked him, he pricked him all over with a pin,
And the nurse held the basin for the blood to flow in.
My lady came down, she was thinking no harm
Long Lankin stood ready to catch her in his arm.
Becky says: What an in depth review Irena! I have to say I don’t ever want to read this book. It sounds so frightening. I think it would give me nightmares for weeks after reading. It is great to see a UK debut author being so well received though. I am sad that the ending didn’t quite come off for you but none the less it does sound like you were thrilled by the story.
Both our thanks go to RHCB for sending the book to review.