THE GHOST TREE by Christina Henry
Titan Books, s/b, £8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
It’s the mid-1980s in small-town America. Lauren lives with her mother and younger brother David since her father’s body was found in the woods the year before with his heart torn from his breast. Almost 15, she’s been best friends with Miranda since they were little and spent many happy years having adventures in the woods, meeting at the “old ghost tree”. As they’ve grown older, they’ve also started to grow apart as Miranda’s no longer interested in playing in the woods, instead preferring make-up and boys.
When the bodies of two girls from outside of the town are discovered, Miranda starts having visions of something dragging their remains through the woods and realises that things are never going to be the same again. As she digs deeper into the murder of the two young girls, she finds strange things happening – most people seem to forget about the murders very quickly, even some of the police that are supposed to be investigating it. At the centre of what she thought was a normal town, she starts to unearth a secret that goes back hundreds of years, a secret that could end up taking her life.
Henry takes us back to 1985 in her latest work without having to resort to a DeLorean fitted with a flux capacitor. Her cultural references are impeccable and have clearly been well researched. From the clothing to the music and more – the detail is fantastic.
Her writing keeps you on the edge of your seat, trying to second guess her and work out who the murderer is (I failed – she kept their identity well-hidden until the big reveal!). She builds a real sense of tension and peril through her prose as you accompany Lauren on her investigations and experience the plot unfolding around you. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read that is very difficult to put down, which should be no surprise to anyone that has read any of her previous works.