cover image Wychwood


George Mann. Titan, $14.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-78329-409-1

An ancient pagan legend concerning a murderous mage casts its dark shadow over contemporary events in this sinuous occult thriller. Elspeth Reeves is newly returned to her mother’s house in Wilsby-under-Wychwood following the loss of her job and her lover. She takes on freelance work writing up a recent series of ritual murders for the local paper. Someone is mimicking the exploits of the Carrion King, a self-proclaimed sorcerer who, legend has it, lived in the nearby forest Wychwood in the ninth century C.E. and killed a cohort of disciples who betrayed him. Mann (Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes) provides readers with several possible suspects to consider, among them an academic and an author who have written on the king and personnel associated with a stage adaptation of his story. The tale’s resolution is formulaic, but Mann’s characters are well drawn, and the culprit’s genuine occult powers add a frisson of the uncanny. (Sept.)