Hardcover, 464 pages
Published April 7th 2011 by Bodley Head
If you are looking for an All Hallows read that makes you shiver with fear and tremble to turn the page, Long Lankin is the book for you. For greatest effect read it during the night when all is silent except for the creaking noises the house makes to punctuate its resting time. In the tradition of the best horror movies and books, Long Lankin follows a pair of sisters, Mimi and Cora, who are sent to live with their great-aunt Ida Eastfield, in a dilapidated old mansion called Guerdon Hall in an isolated village of the name Bryers Guerdon. There is a lot of history attached to Guerdon Hall and not the good kind. None of the grown-ups want to tell Cora and Roger, Cora’s local friend, about the mysterious and sinister happenings connected to Guerdon Hall and the church they are expressly forbidden to go to. Mimi is only four years old so she functions less as a character than as someone who pricks the plot forward.
The novel is all about how Cora and Roger go about solving the mystery of Guerdon Hall in order to save Cora’s sister, Mimi, from Long Lankin, the titular character that, believe me, none of us ever want to meet. Long Lankin has plagued the village and the inhabitants of Guerdon Hall for a long time, preying on the youngest children.
The novel is well written and evokes a wonderful sense of village life that focuses on the dynamic relationship one person has with another not because they are related but because they live in the same place and they are humans and compassionate. The setting is terrifying and the church and the attached graveyard are brilliantly drawn up–it scared me. The atmosphere is tense and Barraclough expresses fear so eloquently that my heart was pounding fiercely at times while reading the novel.
The pace is very slow though and sometimes the novel suffered because it is difficult to maintain tension for an extended length of time. I was also sad that Ida’s physical abuse of Cora, no matter how much she was provoked, is never addressed. Though Ida redeemed herself somewhat, I still felt that the ending, such as it was, failed to really convince me about her so she remained an ambiguous character. I also was a bit disappointed in the big reveal. I had some questions that remained unanswered at the end of the book. In fact, I wish the ending had not been as abrupt as it was. I wanted some disclosure; some information about what happened to the girls afterwards and I didn’t get anything. Their future remained shadowy and since this a standalone novel, I’m afraid I’m going to have to imagine what happened to them.
Still, when all is said and done, I did enjoy this novel even with a chicken heart. Fear level is about 7 I’d say. I think this book would make a wonderful movie and in fact, there probably is a movie with a somewhat similar plot that I probably have already seen. The book is recommended.