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Sunday, 6 October 2019

‘The Twelve Strange Days of Christmas’ by Syd Moore

Looking for a Christmas present:

Published by Point Blank,
26 September 2019.
 ISBN: 978-1-78607-681-9 (PB)

Many readers will be familiar with this author’s Essex Witch Museum series, featuring proud Essex girl Rosie Strange, who was bequeathed the museum in the village of Adders’ Fork by her grandfather Septimus, and the Museum’s curator, the highly desirable but elusive Sam Stone. However, although Rosie and Sam do appear in some of the stories, sometimes together, sometimes not, they’re not in all of them. Thus, in the first story, ‘Septimus and the Shaman’, Septimus recounts to Sam, who is researching witchcraft tradition for a Ph.D., his encounter with a shaman during World War II when the British occupied Iceland. 

The second story, however, features the elderly lady Norah who has lived on her own in Adders’ Fork since the death of her husband with no company apart from successive cats all called after departed members of her family, friends, lovers, until the final feline calls for her.

It is not possible to outline all the stories. One, however, Death Becomes Her, has been shortlisted for the CWA 2019 Short Stories Award. It features Police Officer Stacey Winters of the City of London Police. Like most police officers she is distressed by encounters with death. But unlike anyone else, from her teenage years she is visited by the actual apparition of Death who materialises to warn her that he is about to visit his next victim. And in another, readers who have been following Rosie’s pursuit of Sam will like to know that in Christmas Eve at the Witch Museum (which features many inhabitants of Adders’ Fork who fulfil all the Essex clichés affectionately depicted) Rosie gets to dance with Sam under the mistletoe. But does she get any further? The following story which is based on the witch persecutions of the 17th century is much more serious in tone while the final tale, A Christmas Carole, is a retelling of Dickens’s classic Christmas Carol.

All in all, this is a great collection of seasonal stories just right to be popped into a Christmas stocking.
Reviewer: Radmila May

Syd Moore is an author inspired by the history and legacy of the 19th Century Essex witch trials. She is also co-creator of Super Strumps, the game that reclaims female stereotypes through the medium of Top Trumps, and was founding editor of Level 4, an arts and culture magazine based in South Essex. She has worked extensively in publishing and the book trade and presented Channel 4's late night book programme, Pulp.

Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.

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