Source: Review copy
Publication: 14 June 2018 from Wildfire
A SENSELESS MURDER. A TERRIFYING LEGEND. A FAMILY HAUNTED.
1990: In the darkest woods, three girls devote themselves to a sinister figure.
2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter.
2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world.
Three chilling events, connected by the shadow he casts.
He is the Tall Man. He can make you special…
If you go down to the woods today…..no. Don’t. Just don’t OK. I’ll not look at woods in quite the same carefree way again.
It’s a real privilege to be starting off the blogtour for The Tall Man, which is bound to be a runaway success this summer.
Internet/urban legends have been a feature in a number of books recently. From Matt Wesolowski’s Hydra to Luca Veste’s The Bonekeeper and Mark Edwards The Retreat, readers have been confronted with dark deeds seemingly inspired or driven by creepy figures in the shadows who may or may not be real.
It’s easy to see why. The author can play with the space between real and imagined; between the reader’s fear of the unknown and rational but horrific events.
That’s not to suggest that The Tall Man is derivative; far from it, it stands clear and proud as a creepy, suspenseful thriller that will have you jumping at your own shadow.
The story focuses on two women. Sadie has been visited by the Tall Man in the shadows since she was a girl, and 18-year-old Amber, a seemingly self-obsessed young woman recently acquitted of a murder charge and now the subject of a fly on the wall true crime documentary.
There are interwoven strands here; the reader is taken back to Sadie’s childhood and how she and her school friends were both captivated by and in thrall to the Tall Man legend. The Tall Man either takes your daughters or makes them special, and Sadie wants to make sure that she is one of the special children. We follow Sadie through to her marriage and the birth of her only child, and her subsequent abandonment of that child.
Then we learn that years later that same infant daughter is on trial for murder and the subject of a documentary, though we do not know who she was accused of killing. These two timelines are interspersed with flashbacks that fill in the tapestry that comprises the lives of these two women who have the closest possible link but yet who hardly know each other;and the whole is viewed through the prism of a less than scrupulous documentary maker.
Locke skillfully weaves a narrative web that combines legend and fact with dark secrets and downright duplicity as the reader tries to work out The Tall Man’s puzzling clues.
It is some way into the book before we find out who Amber was accused of killing, but the clear eyes of researcher Greta, who is attempting to get close to Amber so that they can get the best out of her for the documentary, is our benchmark for what is ‘normal’.
Locke’s device of the fly on the wall documentary provides a somewhat unpleasant insight into the seemingly insatiable public appetite for murderer as celebrity; into documentary that crosses the line between factual re-telling and intrusive, emotional manipulation in the cause of tasteless entertainment.
She also has a superb grasp of how to manipulate the reader into the ambiguous space between evil and supernatural and neatly leaves the reader reeling in a breathtakingly awesome twist just when you think you’ve got it all worked out. Unpredictable, unsettling, twisty and completely gripping, this is a sure fire soaraway summer success.
Verdict: A chilling, suspenseful book that will leave you hiding from the dark shadows in the corners of your mind.
About Phoebe Locke
Phoebe Locke is the pseudonym of full-time writer Nicci Cloke. She previously worked at the Faber Academy, and hosted London literary salon Speakeasy. Nicci has had two literary novels published by Fourth Estate and Cape, and also writes YA for Hot Key Books. She lives and writes in London. THE TALL MAN is Phoebe Locke’s debut thriller.
Find Phoebe on Twitter @phoebe_locke
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