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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

‘The Guardian Stones’ by Eric Reed

Published by Poisoned Pen Press,
5 January 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-46420501-9 (HB)

It’s 1941, and outside the tiny, isolated village of Noddweir somewhere in middle England war is raging and the Blitz is sending people in cities running for cover.

The good (and not quite so good) people of Noddweir have taken in a group of evacuee children from one of those cities – but all is far from well. Local children as well as more resourceful city kids are disappearing, and the village people are turning against each other as a sense of desperation invades their peace.

Into this grim atmosphere of resentment and suspicion comes Edwin Carpenter, an American professor with an interest in British folklore. He wants to study the Guardians, a stone circle of the edge of the village, regarded by some of Noddweir’s inhabitants as an evil influence, possibly responsible for the children’s disappearance. Edwin lodges with Grace Baxter, who is trying to fill the role her father, the village constable who has joined the army, has left empty. Grace’s grandmother Martha is the local wise woman, and has her own views about the Guardians. Edwin goes about his research, but becomes involved in Grace’s investigation whether he wants to or not.

Eric Reed (actually Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, co-authors of a series set in 6th century Byzantium) is/are American, and can be forgiven for a portrayal of English village life which owes more to Thomas Hardy than Foyle’s War. The book’s greatest strength is the atmosphere. The dark, looming forest on the edge of the village seems to exude fear and malignity. Unlike most real-life stone circles, the Guardians attract unsavoury elements; and when, quite late in the day, the body count begins to rise, the stones act as a focus for the village’s despair.

The Guardian Stones is an interesting take on wartime mystery: no spies, no plots against the enemy, just ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, with an extra layer of spookiness thrown in for good measure.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Eric Reed is a pseudonym for Mary Reed & Eric Mayer. They are the coauthors of eleven books in the John, the Lord Chamberlain series, set in 6th century Byzantium.

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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