Book Review: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

The Story KeeperAbout the Book

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the word-of-mouth folk tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories. Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters tell her that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl has disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the spirits of the unforgiven dead.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but then she is reminded of her own mother, a Skye woman who disappeared in mysterious circumstances. It seems there is a link to be explored, and Audrey may uncover just what her family have been hiding from her all these years.

Format: Hardcover, ebook (384 pp.)    Publisher: Tinder Press
Published: 26th July 2018   Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The Story Keeper has all the ingredients for an atmospheric read: a mysterious house (Lanerly Hall) partly shut up and furnished with cabinets full of ghoulish looking objects and curios; a family in which there are secrets and things that can’t be spoken of; a sinister factor/land agent; the puzzle of why Audrey’s employer, Miss Buchanan, is confined to the house; and villagers fearful that evil stalks their communities.  It’s all set against the backdrop of the wind and waves that pound the shores of the island.   ‘A dank mist had settled over the island and the sea was steel-grey, angry.’

The remote and windswept location creates an atmosphere where stories of fairies, ‘the little people’, and changelings seem credible.  The privation experienced by the islanders, the legacy of clearances and the decline of crafting as a viable livelihood, mean that not only are the stories Audrey is tasked with collecting coming to an end but a way of life as well.

I really enjoyed the sense of mystery and claustrophobia the author creates as Audrey’s fears seem in danger of being realised.  ‘No matter how much she tried to remain rational, she could feel things closing in, growing nearer.  The day after tomorrow, Samhein would begin, the festival that marked the beginning of the dark months.  It was the luminal time, the people said, the time when the boundary between this world and the other-world could more easily be crossed.’  Spooky, eh?

Who can Audrey trust when those in positions of authority refuse to believe her, perhaps for their own reasons?  I found myself compelled to keep reading in order to find out the resolution of the mystery of the missing girls and will happily admit the author sent me in the wrong direction when it came to identifying the culprit.

The Story Keeper is sure to delight historical fiction fans who enjoy an intriguing mystery, an interesting period setting and an atmospheric location. I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Tinder Press, and NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Atmospheric, haunting, compelling

Try something similar…Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

Anna MazzolaAbout the Author

Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, won an Edgar Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown in the UK. The Times called it ‘sizzling’. The Mirror described it as ‘a brilliant debut.’ Her second novel, a dark fairy tale about a collector of folklore and missing girls on the Isle of Skye, was published by Headline in July.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch on Goodreads or on social media.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

  1. I enjoyed this one too. It took me a bit of time to get into it because of my resistance to folklore and faeries, but once it got going she really created a deliciously creepy atmosphere! One day I must backtrack and read The Unseeing – did you read it?

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