Monday 23 October 2023



You don't read a book about witches for a decade, then take on two at once. What's that about? Perhaps it was just my good fortune. 

This time, the book came in the form of an audio version over at Audible. Listening to novels isn't my usual style. Though I love spending time with my radio, I find that the focus required to follow a longer story is something else. I've learned that the only way that I can concentrate fully on a story is to do nothing, which I managed to do on this occasion; perhaps it's a testimony to the writing of Math Bird and the nimble-in-voice Emma Stansfield that I did. 

There are various sections to Witches Copse that offer different angles of the piece. 

Our main force in this book is Dates, a tough woman killer whose services are for hire. On this occasion, she's taken on by Quentin Quimby, an arrogant barrister with a taste for the dark arts. He sends Dates to Wales to back up the pair he's already sent down there, a researcher and a hard man. Things aren't going so well for them. The hard man has turned to jelly on account of the voices in his head, courtesy of a local woman who is in tune with nature among other things and the barman at the place where they are staying is at the end of his tether. 

Dates is stubborn enough to survive the Welsh torment that unfolds and returns to Quimby to pass on the news, not that he's entirely happy about the outcome. It wasn't what was expected, after all. 

Next we follow the history of the story, something that goes back through generations, the posession of women and their brutal treatment by the authorities. It's all rather spellbinding as well as being chilling. 

From here, there's a turn in proceedings. Dates shifts from victor to victim and the tale is turned on its head. It enters a space familiar to me from the Hammer House of Horror films I watched as a child. It captures all the mood, pomp and ceremony along with the hammy over-playing of parts. Things don't look good for Dates until layers of personal politics come to the fore and offer her a slither of hope. As she only really knows one way of going about surviving, there's plenty of raw action to follow. 

I did enjoy this one quite a lot and know that if you're more of a horror fan than I am, this will really light some candles in the pentangle. My personal preference was for the first half of the tale, driven by mystery, possession and folklore. The more it entered familiar territory, the less engaged I was, though Bird turns it all on its head in a way that I found refreshing. 

If you're after something dark and spooky for Halloween and you enjoy the adrenalin rush of action stories, this one's definitely for you.  


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