Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.
The Story Keeper was published on the 26th July 2018 by Tinder Press. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book via NetGalley.
I absolutely adored Anna Mazzola’s debut novel, The Unseeing so I was very excited about The Story Keeper. Keeping with the historical theme, The Story Keeper takes its reader into a world of folk tales, legends, superstition and mystery in the mid-1800’s.
Audrey has decided to leave her home in London and travel to the Isle of Skye to assist Miss Buchanan in collecting the stories of the crofters after she saw an advert in the newspaper for a folklorist’s assistant. Audrey is drawn to the advert as her mother shared folk tales with her when she was younger which she also collected in a journal that Audrey still has.
Shortly after Audrey’s arrival to the island, she finds the body of a young woman washed up on the beach. Audrey learns that this woman is not the first to have gone missing so she is intrigued as to what happened to this young woman and those before her.
I found the subject matter fascinating, how the stories of the people were openly shared until such time people became scared of the repercussions of sharing and therefore the stories started to die. The setting is wonderfully complimentary to the plot as it helps build the gothic atmosphere of the community and those that still know the stories. Alongside the folklore, we also have the mystery of the death of the young woman and the probability that someone has committed this awful crime from within the small community.
Mazzola’s writing is absolutely beautiful from the setting and the descriptions of the landscape to the folklore itself, I felt that this book is extremely well researched and throughout the read I completely trusted what I was being shown and told – I know that this is fiction but there is an air of authenticity throughout the plot. What I really enjoyed was seeing Audrey build up a rapport with the crofters, initially they are dubious of her presence and her motives which is to be expected considering their small, close knit community and Audrey being an outsider. However, as she persists with them and shows that she is trustworthy, they begin to open up to her and invite her to be a part of the community.
The Story Keeper is a fascinating and intriguing read that will appeal to both mystery and historical fiction fans, Also if you’ve not read The Unseeing give that a go too!
Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.
Her debut novel, The Unseeing, is based on the life of a real woman called Sarah Gale who was convicted of aiding a murder in London in 1837. Her second novel, The Story Keeper, follows a folklorist’s assistant as she searches out dark fairytales and stolen girls on the Isle of Skye in 1857.
She studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before becoming a human rights and criminal justice solicitor. She now tries to combine law with writing and child wrangling, to varying degrees of success.