Blood Harvest by S J Bolton: a Book Review

I thoroughly enjoyed Blood Harvest, even though (or maybe because) it’s a dark, scary book and one that I found disturbing, but thoroughly absorbing . Each time I had to stop reading it I was eager to get back to it. I’ve previously read S J Bolton’s earlier books – Sacrifice and Awakening – and think that Blood Harvest surpasses both of those.

It’s set in the fictional town of Heptonclough in Lancashire and there is a very helpful map at the start of the book showing the layout of the town. There are two churches, the ancient ruined Abbey Church and standing next to it the ‘new’ church of St Barnabas. The Fletchers have just moved into a new house built on the land right next to the boundary wall of the churchyard:

The Fletcher family built their big, shiny new house on the crest of the moor, in a town that time seemed to have left to mind it’s own business. They built on a modest-sized plot that the diocese, desperate for cash, needed to get rid of. They built so close to the two churches – one old, the other very old – that they could almost lean out from the bedroom windows and touch the shell of the ancient tower. And on three sides of their garden they had the quietest neighbours they could hope for, which was ten-year-old Tom Fletcher’s favourite joke in those days; because the Fletchers built their new house in the midst of a graveyard. They should have known better, really. (page 17)

Tom has a younger brother, Joe and they’re playing in the graveyard when they catch glimpses of a girl watching them, and hear voices. Their little sister, two-year old Millie sees her too.  Tom is terrified, convinced something terrible will happen and then Millie disappears. Harry is the new vicar, getting to know the locals and their strange rituals and traditions. He too hears voices, in the church but can’t find anyone there. Evi, a psychiatrist has a new patient, Gillian, unemployed, divorced and alcoholic, who can’t accept that her daughter died in the fire that burnt down her home. The Renshaws own most of the land, old Tobias, his son Sinclair and his two daughters, Jenny and Christiana.

Heptonclough is not a good place for little girls, three have died over the past ten years and Christiana asks Harry to tell the Fletchers to leave:

‘So many little girls’, she said. ‘Tell them to go, Vicar. It’s not safe here. Not for little girls.’ (page 353)

It’s not safe at all for the Fletcher family. I was completely convinced not only by the setting but also by the characterisation that this place and these people were real. It’s full of tension, terror and suspense and I was in several minds before the end as to what it was all about. I had an inkling but I hadn’t realised the full and shocking truth.

An excellent book to read for Carl’s RIP IV Challenge.