Long Lankin is an old ballad poem telling of the murder of a woman and her child. In her novel, Lindsay Barraclough takes the poem as inspiration for a creepy tale of old houses, haunted churchyards and lost children. Cora and Mimi have been dispatched to stay with their reclusive aunt Ida in her falling down home, Guerdon Hall. Aunt Ida is adamant that the children stay away from the nearby church and that all the windows of the house remain closed. But Cora is tempted to explore with her new friend Roger, and gradually the secrets of Guerdon Hall and Long Lankin are revealed.
Cora’s story is set in the 1950s, but the story of the bogeyman, Long Lankin, takes the reader back through the centuries to Elizabethan times and a world full of priest holes and witchcraft. Long Lankin for me was the star of the novel – a character to send shivers down your spine.
Although Long Lankin is described as a YA novel, in many ways it reads younger. The voices of the two main narrators (there are several) seemed more middle grade than young adult and it is only in the final stages of the book that the creepy story becomes genuinely alarming and perhaps not suitable for a younger audience. Well-written and atmospheric although it is, the narrative pace is at times painfully slow, and the chopping and changing of narrators between the children and the aunt might not appeal to every reader.