Scaling Mount TBR: The Whitby Witches…

4

image image

Thank you for joining me as I claw my way up the teetering goliath that is my current TBR pile. Today’s book is one I picked up second-hand after having placed it on my wish-list very soon after Mad Martha returned from a memorable sojourn to the seaside town of Whitby in the UK, declaring that we should now search out and read every book ever written with Whitby as a setting. And there have been a lot. Although we still haven’t read the most famous by far.

Here’s a picture of Mad Martha enjoying the B&B in which she stayed. If you squint, you can just see a bit of the Abbey in the distance out the window:

mad martha whitby

And here she is enjoying a long-awaited wash in the Whitby Laundromat washing machine:

mad martha whitby 2

 

And just for fun, here’s one of the Abbey that looks like it’s screeeeeeeaaaaammmming!

abbey screaming

But I digress. Today’s book is The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, a rollicking and surprisingly dark (in places) tale that was first published in 1991, although it has the ring of a book published much earlier. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

At first glance, the small seaside town of Whitby seems quiet and charming, but eight year-old Ben and his older sister Jennet soon learn that things are not always as they seem. Moved about from foster home to foster home, Ben and Jennet hope to make a fresh start in Whitby. But Ben sees things and people others cannot. There’s something unusual about Alice Boston, their new guardian. And what is that horrible howling Jennet hears late at night? Something wicked’s brewing in Whitby. Can Ben and Jennet put it to rest?

whitby witches

This was an unexpected reading experience for me because there was just so much story packed into the pages. There are the witches and witchiness of the title of course, but then there are fantastical creatures, an ongoing (and progressively more deadly) murder investigation, a strange nun that might not be what she seems, an ancient curse, pregnant cats, as well as an astoundingly action-packed climax that features time-travel along with everything else.

And does anyone else think that Alice Boston bears a striking resemblance to one of the TV versions of Miss Marple??

image

Extraordinary!

So I didn’t expect there to be quite so much going on in this book, but I really appreciated how the author gives the young reader enough credit to put in some pretty creepy content. For a start, there’s the terrifying hound on the cover of this edition. Then there’s quite a lot of violence directed towards old ladies. I was genuinely surprised at a few points that Jarvis was brave enough to pen the deaths of the aforementioned old ladies in such vivid, atmospheric detail.  Actually, now that I think about it, there are a number of scenes that had me thinking, “Oh, that’s a bit shocking!” and this disposed me fondly toward the author for having the gumption to trust that younger readers can handle some grisly, scary stuff and come out the other side unscathed. I suspect this is why the book felt like one that was published before the 90s, because there doesn’t seem to be any coddling through the difficult bits.

Overall, this is one of those stories that has all the classic elements – abandoned siblings, a setting oozing with its own character and history, mysterious magic and just plain, unadulterated adventure! As this is part of a series, I will now add the others in the set to my ever-growing TBR pile and hopefully get to them in the not-too-distant future.

I recommend The Whitby Witches to anyone (especially mini-fleshlings of the upper middle-grade persuasion) looking for good old-fashioned feats of danger and derring-do.

Until next time,

Bruce

Haiku Review: Never the Bride…

2

Good evening sweeties, it is Mad Martha with you once again.  I am very excited about today’s Haiku Review because it centres around a book which centres around a town which is close to my heart.  Today’s review reflects on the work of Paul Magrs, with the opener to his Brenda and Effie series, Never the Bride.  Now, I will admit that I have had an up-and-down relationship with Mr Magrs….it started off quite down until I discovered he wrote for Doctor Who – the television program, not the actual Time Lord – after which he went up in my estimation quite significantly.  Having discovered the Brenda and Effie series, I have to say Mr Magrs and I will probably continue to develop our comraderie for a long time to come.

Never the Bride is a supernatural comic detective story about friendship and enjoying one’s twilight years and working against the demons of hell.  It’s easy pace and immediately likeable main character (who happens to be the Bride of Frankenstein) draw you in and before you know it you are engrossed in the sedately paced adventures of two old spinsters and the various nefarious beings residing in their locale.  The first thing that drew me to this one is the fact that it is set in Whitby – a town that I have visited in my numerous travels.

 MW2  MW3

MW1

Here I am enjoying the sea breeze on the pier (and avoiding the enormous seagulls – honestly, why are they so large?), availing myself of the services of the local laundrette (which is actually mentioned in the story – my little brush with fame!) and enjoying the view from my B&B window….was it close to the B&B that Brenda herself runs? I like to think so!

But on to the Haiku!

never the bride

Ageing She-monster

hunts down hell-spawn in Whitby.

Nothing could go wrong!

So there you have it. For me, Paul Magrs was an acquired taste, but if you enjoy dark comedy and stories that are slightly off-kilter, you may well enjoy his many works.

Toodle-ooooo!

Mad Martha