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Monday, 5 January 2015

‘The Prophecy of Bees’ by R S Pateman

Published by Orion in trade paperback,
27 November 2014.
ISBN: 978-1-4091-2861-8

Superstition is a dangerous thing, says the front cover tagline of R S Pateman’s second novel.
The first had powerful elements of there are more things in heaven and earth; this one takes that premise even further.

The question being posed until the final pages is this: are the strange and dark happenings around Stagcote Manor manifestations of the ancient superstitions which the locals take all too seriously – or is Izzy, the sixteen-year-old protagonist, as disturbed and off-balance as her mother thinks?

A need to tame Izzy’s wilder adolescent tendencies is her mother Lindy’s reason for moving out of London and into the isolated village of Stagcote, despite the bizarre stories about the Manor and its surroundings. Previous incumbents have rarely stayed long, and have invariably been beset by tragedy; Izzy is both intrigued and wary, but Lindy is determined to disbelieve and disprove the rumours.

The eccentric denizens of the village are a tad Central Casting: the wall-eyed Fletcher twins, Cedric the ancient gardener, Ed the phlegmatic pub landlord and assorted country types. But there’s plenty of flesh on the bones of the leading players, and Pateman has a talent for getting under the skin of characters with whom, on the surface, he has little in common. Whatever conclusion you reach about Izzy, she comes across as a real, rounded person, with threads of self-doubt evident under the assertive, impetuous exterior right up to the point at which she becomes convinced that she was right all along. Lindy, too, feels like someone you might meet at a dinner party; and Olga the Latvian housekeeper is arguably the most interesting person in the book.

Stagcote Manor springs to life in all its gloomy, spooky glory, with scratchings in the walls, ancient bones in the chimney and, despite Lindy’s best efforts, enough dark corners to scare the most down-to-earth resident.

But Pateman’s greatest skill lies in making the reader suspend disbelief just that little way beyond what’s usually required in a psychological thriller. Is everything a figment of Izzy’s all too fertile imagination – or is there really something eerie and a little gothic and grotesque behind the strange happenings?

Whatever you choose to believe, the book is unputdownable. I guarantee you’ll be swept along by Pateman’s storytelling.

Just don’t read it late at night.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Rob Pateman is a native of Harold Hill, Romford in Essex but spent much of his adult life in London, particularly Kennington. He's also called Rotterdam, Manchester, Edinburgh and Frankfurt home for varying lengths of time.  He graduated in History from Warwick University and then acted as a tour company rep, play leader and night club bouncer - while dreaming all the while of being a writer.  He began a career as an advertising copywriter, a career that saw him work on some big name clients and ghost write letters for Thora Hird and Terry Waite OBE among others. But it still wasn't really what he wanted to do. Eventually he sat down and wrote several books - one of which became The Second Life of Amy Archer.
He is the co-founder of the Friends of Kennington Park, a voluntary group which, in ten years, has transformed the park from neglected open space to proud owner of a coveted Green Flag for excellence. He is into history, psychology, music, parks, tennis, swimming and cycling. Oh, and books of course. He also really likes hearing what readers make of his stuff.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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