Review Blog

Jan 06 2012

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

cover image

Bodley Head, 2011. ISBN 9780370331966.
(Age 13+) Recommended. Horror. Based on an old folk ballad about Long Lankin, a bogeyman who creeps into houses and steals little children, this is a truly chilling story that sent shivers down my spine from the moment that I started it. When Cora and little Mimi's mother suffers a breakdown, they are sent to stay with their Aunt Ida, who lives in a large dilapidated manor house near the village of Bryers Guerdon. Aunt Ida is not pleased to see them and Cora immediately senses that all is not right when she forbids them to go near the local church and keeps all the windows and doors locked in the house. When Cora meets Roger and his large family, together they try to solve the mystery of the words Cave Bestiam (Beware the beast), which are above the front door of Aunt Ida's house and in the church.
Set in post-world war 2 Britain which is vividly depicted, the readers becomes immersed in the story which is told in the voices of Cora, Roger and Aunt Ida. Each of these characters are fully fleshed and come alive on the page. Cora is a brave, stoic girl who endures her aunt's beatings and continues to try and solve the mystery that surrounds the Guerdon family and the threat that surrounds Mimi. Roger comes from a large happy family and uses his intelligence to follow clues, and although Aunt Ida is forbidding, the reader gradually learns her story and comes to sympathizes with her plight.
Barraclough builds up suspense to an almost unbearable point. Terrifying and unexplained events happen. Dark strangers lurk and the ghosts of lost children appear. Mimi is terrified of a portrait in the house and Cora sees the ghost of a nurse. When the children disobey Aunt Ida and visit the churchyard, things become even more frightening.
I couldn't put this book down. It is one of the most chilling books that I have read, but it is also written beautifully, the prose bringing alive the characters of the children and adults, the threats of the marshlands, the old manor house and the horror of Long Lankin. People who have enjoyed Helen Grant's books or those by Marcus Sedgwick will enjoy this.
Pat Pledger

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