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The Crack Magazine

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The Green Man of Eshwood Hall by Jacob Kerr

Jacob Kerr’s first novel is set in Northalbion (a kind of mythical version of Northumberland) and it’s the first in a mooted series of folk-horror stories. It’s the early 1960s and a family – consisting of a mother and father, and their three children – move into the servant’s quarters of Eshwood Hall, a grand old mansion situated in a town that is said to be in the dead centre of Great Britain (shades of Haltwhistle). The father has secured a position as an odd job man and chauffeur, while the eldest daughter, Izzy, 13, doesn’t go to school as she has to spend much of her time helping her mother – who has some undeclared ailment. When Izzy does find some free time, she explores the forest, which surrounds the house, and learns of the Green Man, a mythical figure who is said to reside there. It’s a story full of familiar tropes – including a house with a history of strife, a near bedridden matriarch, a back-story about a bunch of dead children, and things that go bump in the night – and I kept waiting for the revelatory spark that would ignite the narrative, but it never really comes – not until the last few pages, at least. It’s folk-horror, but folk-horror with stabilisers on. That said, I did enjoy Kerr’s elegant and unfussy prose, which is exactly what is required in a story that thrums with supernatural elements, and I look forward to visiting Northalbion again in the future. (Note: the second book in the series, ‘The Wolf of Whindale’ is due out in 2024.) RM

Published by Serpent’s Tail