Driving home on Halloween night, a young woman stumbles out onto the road in front of Lauren’s father’s truck. Niall bundles her into the cab, taking her home and caring for her all night. In the morning, she is gone. When Lauren asks what happened to the woman from the road, Niall irritably tells her he doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Add this to a whole host of mysteries that feature in Lauren’s life, not least the disappearance of her mother ten years ago when she was just a baby. Lauren looks for answers everywhere; asking her neighbours as well as her mother’s old tarot cards. It’s not until local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing that old secrets start coming to the surface.
With all the lights on, there is still a darkness in the house.
With an endorsement from Sophie Mackintosh on its cover, I was ready to be blown away by Pine. Whilst I certainly enjoyed its creepy atmosphere, it didn’t entirely astound me.
Set in the countryside of the Scottish Highlands during a chilly winter, the story’s surroundings definitely amp up the tension. If you’re planning on reading Pine, I’d recommend getting stuck into it soon whilst the weather’s still bleak – it’s great fireside reading material. It’s somewhat of a mish-mash of genres; part ghost-story, part thriller, though the latter, arriving with the disappearance of Ann-Marie, turns up much further into the book than I expected. Relative to the rest of the narrative, it seems to be over just as quickly as it starts.
I had a sinking feeling that the disappearance of Lauren’s mother would remain unexplained. That ended up not being the case, but ultimately I wish it had remained a mystery, as the revelation of what happened to her came across a little… forced. I’m trying not to give too much away here, but the motivations behind the situation never seem to be clarified.
I think Francine Toon does a great job with the character of Lauren; her actions and feelings feel appropriate for her age. I find sometimes children in adult books can either come across as far younger or far older than their years, but Lauren is a realistic ten year old, though not necessarily typical. In fact all of the characters feel real, and they, along with the atmosphere, really carry the novel. It was the plot itself that I didn’t feel much affection towards. There were a few moments which genuinely chilled me, and as standalone scenes they were fantastic, but outside of these events the story felt like it just plodded along. An enjoyable read, but my high hopes left me feeling a touch disappointed.
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Pine is out now.
*I received a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*