The Fletcher family have just moved to the quiet village of Heptonclough on the Pennine moors after building a new house there next to the church.
At first, the children love their new home and Tom aged 10 and his younger brother Joe aged 6 like exploring and playing in the old graveyard next to their house, but that changes when they begin to hear a voice in the graveyard and glimpse a young girl with long hair and a strange-looking face and hands. Tom thinks he has seen a ghost, but then the girl seems to appear in his bedroom as well as outside and Tom becomes scared. It soon feels to Tom that the young girl is always watching them and calling out to them and he is sure he hears her calling the name of his younger sister, 2 year old Millie.
Meanwhile Harry is the new vicar at the church and has the job of re-opening it and welcoming worshippers after it has been unused for some years. He is a young 'modern' vicar and sets about building relationships with the villagers and in particular the Renshaw family who seem to own and control much of what goes on in the village.
Harry is introduced to a few of their customs and rituals, some of which he finds a little odd and has never came across before. He also finds himself attracted to Evi, a psychiatrist who is treating one of the villagers, a woman named Gillian, who is haunted by the disappearance of her little girl two years previously after a fire burned down their home. Even though she has proof her daughter tragically died in the fire, Gillian remains convinced her daughter survived and spends hours in torment walking the moors searching for her little girl.
As Harry begins to think his presence isn't as welcome as he hoped, he then witnesses some strange events such as blood in the communion wine and hears voices in the church. Maybe it's not just young Tom who is thinking there's something sinister about the village of Heptonclough.
Blood Harvest is packed full of eerie suspense throughout and its creepy, atmospheric setting adds an extra chill to the storyline, which had me gripped from start to finish.
Whilst I did think from the first few pages that this would be a good read, I did however, think it would possibly be predictable. My first thoughts were that this was to be a tale of a woman being haunted by her dead daughter, with some eccentric, weird characters adding a certain menace to the strange events and rituals that take place in the village. And whilst my thoughts were not wrong, I quickly found there was a lot more to the story than I first thought and it proved to be quite a disturbing read and most certainly not predictable.
The author introduces a set of characters ranging from the normal and likeable to the downright weird and menacing and each one is wonderfully described and developed. The story begins in September and the chapters are dated from then through to December, taking in some of the strange harvest rituals, as well as the making of creepy-looking bone men which are then placed around the church and graveyard, before being burned at a bonfire to honour 'The Day of the Dead'.
The short chapters add to the suspense-building in a village where nothing is as it seems and in my opinion Blood Harvest is a story which has been well thought out by the author who has a clever way of weaving the story around its gothic setting and ensuring the reader feels suitably chilled whilst reading. The author also has the admirable ability to make you feel as if you are there in the story with the characters, witnessing the events unfold. Indeed when Harry was looking over his shoulder after hearing voices in the church, I felt as if I was there with him! The same goes for when he is exploring the crypt beneath the church and I found it was becoming increasingly difficult to put this book down.
The story never seemed unbelievable although I did wonder how everything was going to be explained in the end and wondered at one point if it was going to become far-fetched. I should not have worried however, as the author introduced something which I had not expected and yet left me wondering why I had not seen it coming?
I have never read anything by S.J. Bolton prior to reading Blood Harvest and this experience has left me keen to read more of her novels. The way she builds up the suspense and sets up this chilling tale kept me intrigued throughout.
On the inside cover is a photograph of the author and above this it states 'keep telling yourself it's only fiction...' and I truly feel this sums up her writing style perfectly in this book, as I found it an eerie, gripping read which will live on in your mind for some time after you have turned the final page.
The Blood Harvest is the third novel by the author S. J. Bolton and it was released in 2010. The tagline for all of her books are, 'Keeping telling yourself it's only fiction...' The author is from Lancashire and her work has already been given numerous awards.
The Blood Harvest is the first of her books that I have encountered. Despite the title of the book and despite knowing that I would be staying on my own for a few nights, both the blurb on the back and the front cover intrigued me and so I bought it anyway.
The front cover shows a darkened graveyard, forest and church that is undisturbed apart from the little girl in white who is standing amongst the trees. Underneath the picture are the words, 'She's been watching us for a while now...' which is followed onto the back with, 'Sometimes I wish that she'd just leave me in peace.'
The blurb is created using red and white writing in a typewriter style. The red writing says, 'Now you see her. Now you don't. Now you run.' The blurb is split into three sections that describe three characters.
There is Gillian, a women whose daughter disappeared in a house fire two years earlier and she is convinced the daughter survived, even though no one has seen her since. Then there's Tom, a little ten year old boy who moves into the house next to the graveyard and starts seeing the presence of a little girl. And finally, there is Harry, the new Vicar, but something is making it obvious that his presence isn't welcome.
The whole story is set on the secluded Pennine Moors and a large amount of the story takes place around or in the church and on the surrounding hills. Inside the front cover, you'll find a map of the village of Heptonclough so you can keep track on where everything is happening.
The family that move into a new home that they have built beside the church are the focus of the story. The parents arrive with two little boys, Joe and Tom and a beautiful little girl, Millie. The main characters are likeable and the descriptions of both their appearance and personalities make them seem vivid and real.
The village is a fairly spooky and secluded one that celebrates the 'Blood Harvest' where they slaughter their own meat and the 'Day of the Dead' where they make Bonemen out of the animal bones to throw on the fire. These bits are not so pleasant, however they are kept to a minimum and this book is more scary than gorey.
Tom is petrified of the little girl that keeps appearing and it seems that it's only him who can see her. His description of her is terrifying but no one will believe him. The vicar is hearing voices in the church, saying things such as 'time to kill'. Mysterious things have been happening in the town, not all of which can be explained. People go missing, objects are tampered with and a general sense of apprehension builds with each page that you turn.
The book begins in the middle of the story with an awful incident. It then speeds back to the past in order to tell the story up until that point and then the second half, tells what happens after that point. Never once, did I want to put this book down. It is pacey, exciting and has constant twists and turns throughout. The story is layered and there is so much going on at one time, that it never gets boring.
I tried reading this at night thinking that I would put it down once it got frightening but the scary bits just creep on you, giving you no idea that they are coming so I kept made sure that I continued to read this in the daylight. The way the author builds the tension is excellent.
A psychologist is thrown into the mix, who is as new to the situation as the reader is, and she meets many of the characters at the same time. You find yourself feeling her frustrations as she tries to find out the truth because, you as the reader, won't know know who to believe either.
The only criticism that I have of this book is that there are so many characters. I found it hard to keep track at times of who was who and that was with reading the book continuously. But I suppose having lots of characters is the easiest way to trick the reader.
All in all, this is a fantastic thriller that is easy to read and exciting from the start to the finish and you will be blown away by the ending. The climax waits until the very end of the book and you will be discovering things even on the last page. The author makes the story seem very real and reading it will give you goosebumps so make sure this book isn't read after dark.
The book I will now review is - "Blood harvest by S.J Bolton".
Tom is a young boy who is one of the newest additions to the tight knit community of Heptonclough, not only does he feel he doesn't belong here, but, along with his younger brother, keeps seeing strange and at times terrifying sights, and all including a small and scary looking girl, who seemingly wants to do him and his little sister harm.....
Evi is a part crippled psychiatrist, who is drawn into the strange goings on in the village by starting to treat a local woman, who has lost her daughter in a fire, but she seems to thing the child died in more mysterious circumstances.....
Harry is the new village vicar, though until his arrival he hadn't realised that the church had actually been closed up for a good amount of time due to a child dying in the church, will he be able to get to the bottom of the story?
I initially started reading this book as I enjoyed her former offering in the form of "the awakening", but found this to be completely different (but in a good way!).
The story is told from the three main characters above's perspective, and is written a chapter about, giving each character a chance to set the scene, and give the briefest of information about themselves and the situation, but only revealing a small fact at a time, this does make the book flow beautifully, but doesn't overload you with information.
Until halfway through the book each of the aforementioned characters pretty much lead separate lives, but eventually they do come together, this is when the story gets really interesting, and a touch more scary too, I didn't really realise how scary and at times disturbing this book would be, but due to how slowly and subtly the facts were revealed it was upon you before you realised!
This is a really good book that combines thriller with horror, all wrapped up with what you assume is supernatural tendencies, but (as with her other book), soon gets explained away, though does add a little more depth and "flavour" to the proceedings.
Due to this story surrounding a small farming village, filled with long haul residents, especially the Renshaw family, whose family members go back so far they are revered above many others in the village, this in itself feels strange that one family gets to make so many decisions about other peoples lives, but this also gives them more freedom and "power" to do just a they please!
There is also a large amount of farming traditions, including the books title "the blood harvest", which to me sounds revolting and an excuse for the men of the village to just take guns and randomly kill the animals to be slaughtered, with the "streets running red with blood", this not only gives a feel of discomfort, but also gives the impression there is more than just animals being killed, so the book is then infused with a lot of paranoia, but is it justified?
This really is a fantastic read, but does get quite disturbing at times, especially towards the end, so if you have a weak constitution this book is not for you!
Pricewise this is a relatively new book, so is still being sold for around the £8.00 mark at www.amazon.co.uk.
For more information visit - www.sjbolton.com
Thanks for reading x