Mini review of ‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave with huge thanks to Pan Macmillan.

Book Blurb

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves, the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant.

Now the women must fend for themselves.

Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty and terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

Inspired by the real events of the Vardø storm and the 1621 witch trials, Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Mercies is a story about how suspicion can twist its way through a community, and a love that may prove as dangerous as it is powerful.

My thoughts

I enjoyed this ‘Norwegian Crucible’ of a story. Based on historical events where the search for witches becomes a bloodthirsty passion; it’s such an horrific part of our world history that shouldn’t be forgotten ~ this book serves to remind us of the awful way power, superstition, control, jealousy and mass hysteria can cause humans to do truly terrible things.

The story follows two young women, who meet in differing circumstances but find an instant connection with one another. One woman who has endured great loss and hardship; another married to a stranger and taken to a new isolating and intimidating land. Both are likeable protagonists and I loved how their relationship developed admid the chaos of accusations and suspicion. How their feelings for each other grew so naturally against the darkness of the unnatural regime choking their community.

The writing is rich and immersive, the landscape dark and cold. I really enjoyed this book and the inevitable bittersweet ending.
Recommended read.

Mini review of ‘Sherlock Holmes and The Christmas Demon’ by James Lovegrove with thanks to Titan Books


It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe – eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty – is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.

Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card…

Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something – or someone – is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.

My Thoughts…

First of all, this is a beautiful book. There’s careful attention to detail; the naked cover and spine have a lovely period vibe. This would make a super Christmas gift for a book lover. It’s also a great read too – James Lovegrove creates a marvellous homage to the much-loved Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series, featuring the practically perfect crime-solving duo of Holmes and Watson.

I had such fun reading this, and you soon know you’re in safe hands as Lovegrove recreates Doyle’s world and the snappy intellect of Holmes from the opening lines “Father Christmas! Halt right there!”. The opening scene is driven and humorous, I really enjoyed the immediacy of being hurtled into the last moments of their current mystery, when being re-united with Holmes and Watson.

At 221B Baker Street, we are introduced to the focus for this book after a plea from a young heiress to save her from a demonic Christmas spirit; our detectives are soon heading up North to solve the mystery of the mysterious Black Thurrick.

It’s a tale set in and around a strange Gothic lakeside castle in the wilds of Yorkshire, where an eclectic selection of characters provides Holmes and Watson with an unusual mystery and many conundrums to solve. Soon, a shocking murder occurs, and the investigation intensifies amid a gloomy and ominous snow-clad setting, where the lure of creatures from folklore increase both pace and atmosphere.

This was an entertaining book and Lovegrove emulates the world created by Doyle with wit, atmospheric archaic detail and intelligence. A pacey, witty, mystery adventure honouring Doyle’s creative genius in a way only good writers can. It certainly felt like Christmas had come early when I read this book – with huge thanks to Sarah & Titan Books for being my early Santa!

Book lovers request this for Christmas! What a fabulous book to open Christmas morning…