Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola


First Line: Shrieking split the leaden sky and Audrey looked up to see a host of birds, their wings ink-black against the grey.

It is 1857, and the Highland Clearances have left the Isle of Skye devastated, its remaining people mired in poverty. It is here that young Audrey Hart has come to help collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities.

When Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach, the crofters tell her that it's only a few weeks since another girl disappeared. The locals believe that the girls are victims of restless dead spirits that take the form of birds.

But Audrey becomes convinced that the girls' disappearances have nothing to do with the supernatural, and as she sets out to prove her theory, she finds her own life in danger.

The Isle of Skye, reeling from the Clearances, is the perfect atmospheric setting for Anna Mazzola's Gothic suspense novel, The Story Keeper. Newly arrived from London, young Audrey Hart is eager to begin collecting folk and fairy tales. But the locals are distrustful. To them, Audrey represents the people who burned so many of them out of their homes, the people who stole friends and family and sold them as slaves in America, the people who have forbidden them to speak their own language and share their own stories. It doesn't even really help if Audrey tells them that her mother was a Scot who often visited Skye to collect stories. Too much pain, so many losses, have colored the way these people feel-- and who can blame them?

The Story Keeper comes close to being the typical Gothic suspense novel (creepy house, strange behavior from the locals, bad weather, etc.), but Mazzola weaves so much of the life of the people into her story that it rises above the genre. And Audrey isn't the typical naïve heroine. She has an a-ha moment that should make all readers stop and think when she's "...wondering how many crimes had been concealed by claims of the mystical." Once she has that thought, The Story Keeper transforms from a typical Gothic novel to a murder mystery.

I really enjoyed The Story Keeper for the descriptions of the Isle of Skye, for the weaving of social history into the narrative, for the folk and fairy tales, and for its murder mystery (even though it wasn't very difficult to deduce the villains). I'll definitely be on the lookout for more of Mazzola's writing.


The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola
ISBN: 9781472234780
Tinder Press © 2018
Hardcover, 352 pages

Gothic Suspense, Standalone
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon UK.


 

11 comments:

  1. This looks interesting because I like reading about the history of the horrific Clearances. And this is a new to me author. So I'll try to get this book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm in this country due in part to ancestors in Scotland being thrown off their land. Reading what happened to them all during the Clearances makes my blood boil. So much injustice. Everywhere. And we refuse to learn.

      Delete
  2. This island was featured in another very good book which made excellent reading. I'd like to read this for the setting alone though the Gothic style mystery adds to the intrigue.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In total, I've spent almost two weeks on the Isle of Skye, so I could "follow along" with the main character's travels.

      Delete
  3. I keep hearing how great this one is, Cathy. I still haven't gotten to it yet, but I know I will. This is one of those books that people should read, so that we learn/remember what happened...

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have this on my list. The Clearances have been an interest to me--and I always love a Gothic mystery!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you get a chance to read it, Jenclair.

      Delete
  5. I learned quite a bit about the Clearances from Peter May, and then I researched on the Internet. It was horrific. I think that people learn, but governments and the super-rich do not learn nor want to learn. Nov. 28 was what Indigenous people call Day of Mourning, to mourn the land that was taken from them, and the Trail of Tears where they were pushed off their lands to walk weatward; so many people died. And we could go on and on about this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we could, but let's read some good books instead.

      Delete
  6. There are good books about all of this, but not uplifting books.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!