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The Crack Magazine

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The Puzzle Wood by Rosie Andrews

Rosie Andrews grabbed herself a ‘Bestseller’ rosette for her debut novel ‘The Leviathan’, a dark and atmospheric 17th century mystery where ancient myths rubbed up against enlightened thinking. ‘The Puzzle Wood’ sees her shifting focus to the mid-1800s and a remote pile named Locksley. Catherine has long been estranged from her sister, Emily, but when she receives word that Emily – while working as a governess at Locksley – has taken her own life, she decides to investigate. To that end, she applies for the now vacant governess role – keeping her own connection with Emily under her bonnet. When she’s offered the role, she uproots and moves to Locksley, which, after a somewhat arduous journey, she finds in the Black Mountains on the Welsh and English border. She’s charged with looking after an only child, the taciturn Georgina, who is given to collecting insects in glass jars. It’s an intriguing set-up and many familiar tropes are soon slotted into place. These include a reclusive woman (Georgina’s mother) who never leaves her rooms, and the titular wood – home to things that go bump in the night. What keeps the tale fresh is the backstory, which keeps bubbling to fore to inform the unfolding drama. Also in the mix are a creaky old mine, a slobbering pack of mastiffs, a Chartists’ revolt, a doctor doing his best to bury his sexual identity, and a healthy body count. We’re also treated to a lengthy and rollicking denouncement in which the action and a whole tumble of revelations burst forth. These are handled with skill and no little aplomb. RM

Raven Books