Scarecrow by Morag Donu

Square

scarecrow_cover_a4 testAdelaide and her parents have moved from the hustle and bustle of urban life in Glasgow to a small village by the sea called West Kilbride hoping for a fresh start. Well, her retired parents are looking for a fresh start, but for Adelaide, a small, rough town was not what she had in mind.

Adelaide quickly sees that there is tension in the town between the locals and the traveling gypsies they look down on. The book discusses class conflict as well as religious sectarianism to some degree. I really enjoyed these parts and would love to have had this explored more.

Our heroine is haunted by nightmares – visions of scarecrows. At the same time, the traditional Scarecrow Festival is taking place in the town. Her sense of unease is heightened as local school girls start to go missing. Despite making friends she’s still very much an outsider.

This is a story set in Scotland, and as such, the characters speak with a very Scottish dialect. This language, of course, is the natural way of things, but readers not familiar with the pronunciations and slang might have to re-read some conversations to understand what was going on. The use of natural language (think Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting) adds to the story, in my opinion, rather than being an obstacle.

There is a certain Wicker Man feel to the story. I love the mix of ancient traditions and present day practices. Britain, with its long history, really is the perfect setting for stories like this. It’s just something that can’t be replicated in stories set in the United States.

This is a short novella and you will easily get through it in one sitting. It’s a story that builds quietly to the finale, but I enjoyed the building of tension and the interactions of Adelaide and her peers. The scarecrow masked assailants are creepy in the way that they act and how they move. Crucially important with a build up like this is to have a good payoff, and this certainly does. It’s a great and shocking ending, that will leave you thinking about it long after it’s over.

7.5/10

Book Cover Blurb:

The Scarecrow Festival is a bright and cheerful annual event in the quaint Scottish seaside village of West Kilbride. But beneath the surface, a dark and terrible secret lurks….