The Magpie Tree

Written by Katherine Stansfield
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

1844 on Bodmin Moor. Anna Drake wants to set up her own detective agency at a time when this service was very new and only undertaken by men; in order to achieve this, she takes on the task of searching for a young boy missing from his village on Bodmin Moor. With her is Shilly, a Cornish woman well familiar with the tales and suspicions of the woods. St. Nectan, an ancient local saint, with his ‘warning’ bell and his ability to protect the local people, is also involved, as are the magpies which live in the trees.

This book won The Times’ Historical Book of the Month and is described as ‘creating a dark and macabre atmosphere’. It is well written, and the main characters come across well in all their variety. The woods are dark and mysterious, and the sounding of a bell when danger arises could be that of St. Nectan, or simply the warning bell from the nearby slate quarry that blasting is about to take place. Those who like this sort of thing will probably enjoy this book, but this particular genre is definitely not my scene.