When a young woman is brutally murdered, her urbane cousin plans to debunk superstition and find out what really happened. But Yorkshire in the 1800s is a rather mysterious, suggestive place, and soon it’s unclear where the line falls between the supernatural and human cruelty.
Recently married and planning to take over his father’s business interests in London, Albie is haunted by word of his cousin Lizzie’s death. And the circumstances—burned by her husband, who thought she was a fairy who had taken his wife’s place—drive him to the village of Halfoak, where the villagers avoid going outside on the night of the full moon for fear they will be bewitched or stolen away. At first, Albie is angry and dismissive of the local superstitions, but when his wife joins him and begins acting strangely, he must reconsider all of his prejudices against the village’s pagan inheritance. A dead baby, an elfin child, a seductive squire’s son, and a tight-lipped parson draw him further into the mystery, and when he finds Lizzie’s journal, the truth becomes apparent. Littlewood (A Cold Silence, 2015, etc.) expertly creates an atmosphere of unease, interestingly tied to Albie’s reading of Wuthering Heights, but Albie's lack of empathy for those around him, and his failure to care for or investigate his own wife’s suffering, instead always casting himself as the victim of her changing character, make him an off-putting character. In the end, it seems to be more a novel of men versus women rather than old ways versus new ways, and female readers should feel uncomfortable about this dichotomy.
Suitably strange with a twist, but the misogyny of the main character, true to the time period, is off-putting for a modern audience.