White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick is a neat little novel, which unfolds a macabre and troubling tale of what happens when people become obsessed with finding out what happens to us after we die.
This is the story of what happens in the village of Winterfold, once a prosperous market town, now a derelict, haunted place consisting of a tiny community waiting in a kind of terrible limbo, as one by one, their houses and home slide into the encroaching sea.
The place is almost as much of a character as the people in this book. Much of the air of menace and the implacable, inescapable feeling of dread and horror to come is rooted in this strange, isolated community, dying at the very edge of a rapacious sea.
Rebecca comes to Winterfold with her dad, a troubled man who needs to escape from it all. Rebecca doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t really know where she wants to be, but knows that her whole life is sliding out of control. She is rudderless and lonely, possessed by thoughts she doesn’t really want to have and doesn’t know what to do with.
Then she meets Ferelith, a semi feral teenager, haunted by death and obsessed by sucking the damaged Rebecca into her dark and twisted passions. Ferelith is trouble. Even Rebecca knows this, but somehow, in the place she is in, and the mental space she finds herself inhabiting, she cannot avoid Ferelith, even though the voice of reason in her head tells her she should.
The story splits and splits, third person narrative interspersed with Ferelith’s views, or maybe they aren’t always Ferelith’s views, we are never quite sure, and the diary entries of a deranged priest, two hundred years dead, also obsessed by the question of life after death.
This is a haunting, oppressive tale, of fragmented view points, disjointed personalities and troubled minds.
It is beautifully written, and the doomed village and the relentless heat of a seemingly endless summer, all, carefully drawn by Sedgwick only add to the palpable air of menace and rising hysteria in the book.
This is a beautifully drawn horror story which leaves enough unsaid for your mind to play tricks on you and for the story to linger with you long after you have closed the last page.
Suitable for both boys and girls aged from 12 upwards, this is a masterclass in horror writing.