A thoroughly terrifying, centuries-old monster stalks two children sent from London to stay with their great-aunt in the country.
Cora and little sister Mimi's Auntie Ida could hardly be less welcoming when they show up at her door, sent by their father while their Mum, always prone to "funny moods," is away—again. They must keep the windows and doors locked, even though the crumbling old house is steaming in the summer heat. They mustn't explore in the house, or go down to the marshes, or—especially—go down to the old church. Roger and his brother Pete, local boys, are also forbidden to go there, but when the four children fall in together, down to the church they go—and wake up Long Lankin. He likes them young. This atmospheric, pulse-pounding debut makes the most of its rural, post–World War II setting, a time and place where folklore uneasily informs reality. Barraclough controls her narrative with authority, shifting voices and tenses to provide both perspective and the occasional welcome respite from tension. The actual threat remains mostly unknown for almost the first half of the book, evident mostly in the long scratches by the door, the fetid stench of the church, the secretiveness of the villagers and, overwhelmingly, Auntie Ida's frank terror. If some of the historical exposition comes very conveniently, readers won't care—they will be too busy flipping the pages as Long Lankin closes in.
A good, old-fashioned literary horror tale for sophisticated readers. (Historical fantasy. 10-14)