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The Crack Magazine



Sarah Perry, Serpent’s Tail

Sarah Perry scored a huge hit with her last novel ‘The Essex Serpent’ set in a fictional English village circa the 1890s. Her latest takes place in modern day Prague and whereas the mysteries of ‘The Essex Serpent’ lay not so much in the supernatural, but with affairs of the heart, this time she’s went into full on doomy gothic mode. Working in the Czech Republic as a translator Helen Franklin comes into possession of a manuscript which details sightings of Melmoth, a tall, silent woman who, apparently, has been condemned to walk the earth for all eternity to witness some of the world’s darkest chapters. The narrative alternates between the present day and accounts of these sighting, which take in everything from the Nazi occupation to England under the reign of Bloody Mary. It’s an ominous, suffocating tale, blanketed in gloom, and it also has a touch of MR James swirling around its nether regions (those dusty professors! Those libraries!). Fans of ‘The Essex Serpent’ may be put off by its lack of narrative drive, but this is less a page-turner and more a page-trembler.