Hollow Pike by James Dawson, published by Indigo on 2nd February 2012
Something wicked this way comes... She thought she'd be safe in the country, but you can't escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she's being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn't believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn't believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you're alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.
There has been a lot of pre-publication buzz surrounding this debut by British author James Dawson, so I couldn't wait to pick it up as soon as it arrived. I initially thought that it was going to be about witches and witchcraft but although that was an element of the story it didn't figure as predominantly as I'd imagined. The plot is actually more concerned with learning to start life over with a fresh slate in front of you and given that chance what you'll do with it. That's the dilemma that faces Lis London when she moves from her home in Wales to live with her sister in the town of Hollow Pike.
Told in a third person narrative, I was impressed that a male author could write so convincingly from a female point of view. The dialogue was fresh and engaging and I immediately felt a connection to Lis who was bullied at her old school and has moved away to escape the people who've taunted her for so long. The book conveys quite a serious message about the impact that bullying can have on people and this was dealt with in a sensitive manner but without pulling any punches about the damage that it can cause.
I found the start of the book a little slow going which mainly focused on introducing the key players and establishing the plot. However, the second half was much better with the tension really being ramped up, leading to an explosive ending which sent shivers down my spine. The story itself seemed to change direction quite rapidly, but I thought it cleverly combined different genres, mixing together a paranormal tale about witches with a contemporary modern day thriller. I would have liked to have seen more of the romance between Lis and local boy Danny, but on the other hand, it was nice to see girl power trumping the boys for once!
Overall 'Hollow Pike' was an enjoyable and exciting read which continually left me guessing about all the secrets that the characters were keeping hidden. I often didn't know who could be trusted and who was hiding something. I'm really looking forward to future offerings from this very talented British author.