They are driving home from the search party when they see her.
The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.
In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.
Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.
In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.
Going into Pine I didn’t really know what to expect, I had seen some incredible reviews online and I was so intrigued by this beautiful Gothic sounding story. The novel is set in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands, following Lauren and her father Niall as they live life in a quiet little village. Despite everyone in the village knowing each other, the place is full of secrets – her mother’s disappearance, a young teenager goes missing and so much more. Trying to understand what’s going on in the village Lauren turns to her tarot cards, hoping to figure out just who she can really trust.
This quiet, beautifully written tale really sucked me in and I really did not want to put this one down. Toon is a brilliant storyteller, weaves layers that draw you deeper and deeper into the secrets surrounding this family. It’s a haunting tale, full of chilling imagery and an eerie isolated setting. It was a gripping read and I will certainly be on the lookout for more books from this author.
Pine is difficult book to categorise – it blends literary fiction with mystery and adds a touch of the supernatural. It’s a well executed story and is completely enthralling. Our main protagonist Lauren is a fascinating young girl, she’s clever and notices far more than most ten year olds. The story is quite a slow burn, it did take me a little while to get settled into the story, but after a few chapters I became completely invested in this story, with it’s vivid imagery of bleak forests and supernatural horror.
I don’t want to say too much about the actual plot of this story – it’s definitely one of those books that you should go into knowing as little as possible about the plot. If you love captivating tales full of mystery with a pinch of Gothic horror thrown in, this is absolutely a must read.