By Lazlo Strangolov
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 1660 5
Lazlo Strangolov lives underground in a bunker somewhere in the mountains of Romania. Strangolov is an author and scholar of Eastern European folk stories who firmly believed that the world would end 10 years ago at the dawn of the new millennium. On New Year's Eve, 1999, he took to his bunker ... and is still there.
Aware that his millennium fears didn't come to pass, Strangolov has spent his time contemplating the fate of the world and furiously writing. Fortunately, the English writer Matt Whyman, a close friend of Strangolov, has been entrusted with the task of bringing the reclusive author's writings to the rest of us.
Feather and Bone is the first Strangolov book to be published. It is an eerie and compelling folk novel not suitable for the squeamish or fainthearted. It will certainly raise a few hairs on the back of any reader's neck.
Strangolov takes us into a village on the edge of a dark wood in the depths of rural Romania where teenage Kamil lives with his mother. One day, Kamil's father walked into the wood and hasn't been seen since. But no one wants to talk about what could have happened to him.
Kamil and his ghost-like mother live in a small cottage on the edge of the woods, and every time Kamil takes his dog for a walk along the woodland paths, he feels something is watching him.
In the middle of the woods, there is an enormous building, surrounded by a formidable security fence. This is the Squawk Box, a facility that was once used for the rearing and slaughter of thousands of chickens. Most of the people in Kamil's village were employed at the Squawk Box, and they knew it was a dreadful place.
The Squawk Box is now disused and deserted, but it still casts a sinister shadow over the woods.
There are weird goings-on in Kamil's village, and he is determined to get to the bottom of them. The rabbits that live in the woods keep exploding, someone is chopping off the fingers of Miss Milea, the village schoolteacher, and Mr Petri, the Squawk Box's owner, keeps giving the already overweight Cosmina Barbescu extra rations.
And then Kamil discovers that Mr Petri is involved in a new business that is even more gruesome than rearing and slaughtering battery chickens.
Feather and Bone is dark, unsettling and delicious. But it might put you off eating chicken for a while.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com