Friday, February 1, 2013

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

It is August 1958. Cora Swift, 12, and her sister Mimi, 4, have just arrived at Bryers Guerdon from London to live with their Auntie Ida Eastfield at Guerdon Hall, a ramshackle estate that has been in their family for centuries.  Their mother is gone again, and their dad had no where else to send them until she returns home.  Where her mum is is a mystery to Cora.

But Auntie Ida doesn't want them living with her and immediately gives them a list of things they must never, ever do, odd things like always keep the doors locked and never open a window, never go into any rooms upstairs except the bedroom and the bathroom, never go behind the house, never ever go to the marshes when the tide is out, never dare to go to the old church nearby.  Of course, once Cora posts the letter Aunti Ida writes to her dad, the kids will be going back to London with him.

Luckily, Cora ad Mimi have already run into Roger and Pete, who live in the area and have become instant friends.  And of course, on the way to post the letter to their dad, the first thing they do is get waylaid with their new friends and go to the forbidden church.  But will playing in the graveyard that surrounds the church, Cora and Mimi both see a man who then disappears. Mimi says it is Old Peter, the man in the picture at Auntie Ida's that hangs near the bathroom.  That picture scared Mimi so much the day before she wet the bed in the night instead of going to the bathroom.  And Old Peter isn't the only one they see, there are specters of children in the graveyard, too.  But who are they? Why are they there?

It doesn't take Cora long to become curious about all the odd things that are going on and she starts searching for some answers.  And what she uncovers is a chilling story that has terrorized Bryers Guerdon for centuries and it involves the death of young children.  And now it looks like Mimi might be in danger.  Little by little, Cora and Roger uncover the secrets that villagers, and especially Auntie Ida, have held for years and which might help explain why Auntie Ida so vehemently does not want the two girls living with her and why Cora's mother disappears periodically.

It's hard not to give too much away about this book but Long Lankin is such a deliciously creepy book and it would spoil everything for future readers.  So I am going to stop here and hope I have tantalized you enough to want to read this really exciting novel.

Long Lankin is told from the point of view of three alternating voices, that of Cora, Roger and Auntie Ida.  The way be get different perspectives on the same events as well as background information that would not be known to the other narrators.  This way, they not only fill in gaps, but give historical background, especially Auntie Ida.  And this round robin of narrators adds to the buildup of tension that culminates in the denouement.  And what a denouement it is.

Long Lankin is a story is based on a rather sinister old 18th century English ballad. Barraclough has taken each of the two line verses and woven them into a rather Gothic-like story.  The ballad is included in to front of the book, so be sure to read it before you begin Long Lankin.

If you like a gripping mystery shrouded in Gothic tropes, Long Lankin is the book for you.

Long Lankin is book 1 of my 2013 YA/MG Fantasy Reading Challenge hosted by The Book Cellar


  1. Your review is great and really gives a sense of the book, but I am afraid to read books where kids are harmed. It gives me nightmares. As tantalizing as it sounds, I think I have to stay away from this one. I hope there is a happy ending too!!!

  2. Before commenting on this post I just have to tell you how much I enjoyed The Lions of Little Rock – it was wonderful! Thank you so much for bringing it to my attention.
    As for Long Lankin, it certainly is a book for me – it sounds really creepy and sinister so probably one to read in daylight!


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