Dead coastal town is fertile ground for classy teen horror

Dead coastal town is fertile ground for classy teen horror

White Crow
By Marcus Sedgwick
Published by Orion
ISBN 978 1 84255 187 5

Rebecca resents everything about moving to the town of Winterfold. As soon as she arrives, she knows it is the most boring place on earth and that her life will go downhill from that moment on.

She was happy living in London with its big-city buzz. But Rebecca has had no choice in this sudden change in her fortunes.

Her father, a policeman in London, has been blamed for the death of a young girl and has had to leave town to escape the heat. Winterfold is where they have gone to get away from the nightmare.

Rebecca understands why they are in Winterfold, but she doesn't know how she is going to survive without her boyfriend and friends back in London.

Winterfold used to be a thriving coastal town but the erosion of the cliffs on which the community has stood for hundreds of years has caused most of the old town to fall into the sea. A few houses, an old hall, a handful of local residents and a general air of decay are all that is left. Winterfold is the perfect place for Rebecca's father.

Out of nowhere, a girl appears and befriends Rebecca. Ferelith knows Winterfold like the back of her hand - the lonely beach under the cliffs, the crumbling pathways, the woods and the ruined graveyards. From the start Rebecca senses there is something odd about Ferelith, but the two of them spend more and more time together.

Readers who are familiar with Marcus Sedgwick will know that from now on it will be difficult to predict the story.

Sedgwick is a clever writer who has come up with some gripping stories before and White Crow isn't going to be a chick-lit tale of friendship between two girls.

Interwoven with Rebecca and Ferelith's developing friendship is the story of an 18th-century churchman who lived in Winterfold and who unwillingly assisted the mysterious Dr Barrieux, master of Winterfold Hall, in a series of evil experiments into the nature of death.

Barrieux's experiments involved a special room deep in Winterfold Hall where he had built a machine that severed the heads of unsuspecting villagers. What has this horror of two centuries ago to do with Ferelith and Rebecca? When Ferelith lures Rebecca into this room, White Crow finally becomes the modern gothic thriller the cover promises.

This is a masterful spooker that will have the hair on the back of your neck standing to attention. The plot grips from the start.

Full of taut atmosphere, Sedgwick's plotting and writing style build up unbearable tension in the book's second half.

This chilling and demanding novel isn't one for the faint-hearted but many will be reading until the early hours of the morning.

If you are into classy teen horror, then White Crow should be at the top of your reading list.

John Millen can be contacted on



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