Black Wood, SJI Holliday


Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man?

To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?


So the novel I’ve just finished and will be reviewing just now, SJI Holliday’s Black Woodis a dark, chilling and gritty tale set in Banktoun – so reminiscent of a typical quiet, almost oppressive village that it could so easily be real! The events that occur in Banktoun are of such huge contrast to the sleepy nature of the village that it makes the perfect location for the story to be set.

The novel had a coercive effect on me which led to staying up late on several occasions and using any spare second I could find during the day between work in order to read on.

The main character, Jo, is an intriguing individual! She definitely wasn’t someone I connected with but I think this was intentional and I really liked the way in which the author forces the reader to continually question this central protagonist and narrator’s integrity – something that is quite unusual. This formed the foundations for the haunting nature of the tale and all its twists throughout as there really was no character that the reader could place their trust in..!

Another technique employed by the author that I really enjoyed was the layered structure of the novel. I feel it was the way the author slowly peeled back one layer of the story at a time that really heightened the chilling nature of the novel for me. Not only that, but it really kept me on the edge of my seat and, again, as I’ve already mentioned, added to the force that compelled me to read on in order to unveil what was actually going on!

I did manage to make a successful prediction about half way through the novel with regards to several of the twists that were unravelled towards the end of the novel. However, this didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the novel and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who relishes psychological thrillers as I do because it is a truly unique, exciting and satisfying debut!

What did you make of this novel? Did you manage to predict parts or all of the ending? I’d love to hear your thoughts as always!

So the next novel I thought we could read and review together is Kate Hamer‘s debut novel The Girl in the Red Coat, which was published last week (see blurb below). I have seen and read many things about this novel over the last few days from fellow bloggers so I am excited to finally get to it in my ever growing to-read pile! I really hope you enjoy it and I’ll update you with my thoughts in the next week or so!

Until then, S x

@sarasbookblog


She is the missing girl. But she doesn’t know she’s lost.

Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children’s festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift…

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is – and who she might become.


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