By Lindsey Barraclough
Published by The Bodley Head ISBN 978 0370 331966
This is a real stunner of a debut: Long Lankin is a wonderful, imaginative slow-burner of a thriller for mid and older teens. Lindsey Barraclough's first novel is written with a style and intelligence that would put many an adult thriller to shame. It's one of those books that make you want to buy a copy for everyone you know. Barraclough's talent as an outstanding storyteller is evident on every page of this dazzling but chilling novel.
Long Lankin has received very little hype and will probably be surrounded by flashier and more publicised titles in the bookshop. Search it out. You will be rewarded with a compelling and brilliantly written story that will remind you on every page why you love reading.
The story is set in post-second-world-war Britain, and Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are about to be become evacuees. Their mother has suffered a nervous breakdown and their dad doesn't have time to look after them, so they're sent away from London to the depths of the country to stay with Great Aunt Ida. Aunt Ida lives in an isolated village surrounded by marshes and empty fields. Her house is hundreds of years old and literally falling down.
Cora realises immediately that she and her sister are not wanted in their aunt's home. Aunt Ida is bad-tempered and unfriendly, insisting that the girls will be sent back to the city at the first possible opportunity.
She orders that all the doors in the house are kept locked at all times, and forbids the girls from opening any of the windows. The girls are banned from visiting the old church in the village, and no reasons are given. Cora senses that something is very wrong, and all she wants to do is get back to London with Mimi.
Cora makes friends with Roger, a boy from the village, and the two of them decide to break the rules and visit the old church. The story now takes off in a very chilling yet entirely plausible direction.
Something evil in the village is reawakening because of Cora and Mimi's arrival. Cora finds strange warnings written on walls, she hears disembodied voices and sees apparitions. Will she be able to get herself and little Mimi away from Aunt Ida and the village of Bryers Guerdon before it is too late?
It is impossible to mention all the brilliant things in Long Lankin in this space. A real sense of menace runs through the book and the cold dampness hangs over every page. The characters are wonderfully drawn. As the story progresses, you will turn the pages with a delicious feeling of dread and unease.
But there is so much more in Long Lankin - It's unlikely you'll have read anything quite like it before. This is a stunning piece of fiction highlighting young adult novels at their best. It's been a long time since I read a book twice, but I'm just about to begin it again, and I can't wait. Rush out and get a copy. Now.