Book Review: “Blood Harvest” by S.J. Bolton

November 8, 2010

You know what the best thing about this book is?

The editors and publishers left it alone. Instead of a neutered, American English variant (ahem, Harry Potter, ugh), the bucolic Britishness of Blood Harvest‘s weird (fictional) town of Heptonclough, Lancashire, has been left intact, and it is that very slight cultural shift that makes S.J. Bolton’s novel stand out in a crowded genre of quasi-paranormal suspense stories.

Pair that with the near-brilliant portrayal of young, Geordie vicar Harry Laycock and you’ve got a combination that is just skewed enough to make the compelling-but-not-earth-shattering plot feel memorable. Laycock is a man of the cloth, but he’s a modern one: He pines, very humanly, after smarty-pants psychiatrist Evi Oliver, whose own character is appealingly flawed. Oliver can only walk with a cane and suffers chronic nerve pain that pushes her nearly to madness at times.

Heptonclough’s assortment of inbreds and recluses is reminiscent of the town in Simon Pegg’s movie “Hot Fuzz.” There’s something endearingly dark and twisted about certain British farm towns. Bolton maximizes on that. Her story involves the mysterious disappearances of a suspiciously high number of very small girls from Heptonclough. A grieving young mother of one of these children seems a bit too aggrieved; the town’s oligarchy seems a bit too powerful and hush-hush; the local seasonal traditions uncomfortably pagan and violent. Oh, and the family at the center of this just built a large, slightly offensive house in the middle of the town’s medieval graveyard. Yeah.

Romping and gripping for most of its course, Bolton’s novel suffers from a couple of plot turns that stretch one’s credulity and an absolutely dreadful ending. Does this mean this will be a series? I admit, I’d read more.

4.0 stars


  1. Heather Dodds says:

    I have this on my (figurative) bedside table and have been looking forward to it. Now I’m wondering about the dreadful ending. Without spoilers, can you tell me any more? Do I bother?

  2. Lyza Gardner says:

    Hi Heather,

    Still worth reading, I think. And not everyone was annoyed by the ending. I guess I’d sum it up as “abrupt” and “unsatisfying.” I hope that doesn’t spoil it!

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