THE GATHERER by Owen Brookes

THE GATHERER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

As in The Widow of Ratchets (1979), Brookes has conjured up his spooky gambols in the dells of rural England, but here his inventive supernatural horrors turn out to have a non-occult, grisly foundation. Young Sue Jackson, not listening to her elder sister Evie, follows her married lover Gavin Trope to his cottage (a bequest from his grandfather) in remote Northamptonshire. There she'll keep house, pursue her art-freelancing, and love Gavin on weekends--which he spends away from his terminally ill wife. But the country silence is soon disturbed, of course. There's the odd Pownall family in the next lane: Gavin's old uncle and aunt; cousin Lucas and his wife; half-wit cousin Ashton, who likes to finger car motors and girlie mags; plump Hettie--who brings fresh eggs, along with a dear little manikin made of twigs and feathers (which, to Sue's amazement, sends Gavin marching over to his relatives in high dudgeon). And, above all, there are the Pownalls' scarecrows--skillfully hand-made structures that seem to have, well, personalities! So: was it a demonic scarecrow that Gavin, years ago, saw whipping through the woods with its ""terrible swinging legs""? And what happened, also long ago, to Gavin's beloved teacher Miss Peterson, the one who had brought him some bosomly warmth? And now what is it which looms up murderously before Gavin's departing car Gavin will disappear; a bullying policeman will visit. But desperate Sue turns to Hettie for hocus-pocus help in bringing Gavin back. And Gavin does return--hideously, leading a crop of terrible little others. So, before Sue is rescued from her lover/stalker by young solicitor Tom, sister Evie will be ""gathered"" in by the grim creepies. Despite the mundane windup: some nifty frights in scarecrow-land.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston