This marks a complete change of direction for award-winning British author Jen Williams whose published works to date have included two Fantasy trilogies. Here, she has poured herself into crime writing which often hovers close to horror. It’s all imbued with a sense of dark folklore which has the effect of making the implausible seem possible and it simmers throughout with an edge of nastiness which makes even the lighter moments seem tense.
Heather has returned to her family home after the suicide of her mother with whom she has always had a difficult relationship. Whilst sorting the house she discovers she does not know her mother as well as she thinks she did, opening a veritable Pandora’s Box of serial killers, dark fairy tales, copycat murders and a barghest, a legendary phantom dog around the setting of a commune where her mother lived when she was younger.
Heather is a journalist who has made bad decisions in her past and quite frankly continues to make them as she keeps things quiet which she should be sharing with the police whilst giving out too much information to others. There are reasons for this which are posited by the turn of events but it is difficult to relax with her as a main character.
I think personally I could have done with a little more light amongst all this shade but there is no doubt that this is atmospheric with the rural environment demonstrating its power running alongside the depressing banality of clearing up after a lost life. There are incidents in this book I found particularly difficult which made me feel I was reading it at the wrong time for me but there is no doubt that Jen Williams here makes a powerful entrance into the world of crime writing.
Dog Rose Dirt is published in the UK by Harper Collins on July 22nd. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.