April 18

Black Wood – SJI Holliday

black-wood-72Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant Davie Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man? To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?


My thanks to Black & White Publishing for my review copy


Black Wood is set in Banktoun, a small village on the outskirts of Edinburgh. If you have ever lived in a small village you will understand that there is a community spirit, that everyone knows everyone else and there CAN be a feeling of claustrophobia (especially if you aspire to escape to pastures new). A small village is also a perfect setting for a tense thriller. A predator in our midst causing fear for the residents, a snake in the garden, one rotten apple in the barrel. Except that everyone has secrets and all is never as it seems.

Cut straight to the chase: I loved Black Wood. I loved the characters, the setting, the mystery and Susi Holliday teased out the secrets brilliantly over the course of the novel.

The story follows Jo. Some 20 years before the events in the story she and her friend Claire had a life changing incident on the edge of Banktoun. The impact of events still resonate for Jo and Claire and we learn that Jo has had a somewhat troubled time in the intervening years.

Elsewhere local policeman, Sergeant Davie Gray, is hunting for a balaclava wearing man who has been seen lurking around a disused railway line that runs beside the village. Unfortunately the lurking is escalating to more threatening behaviour and it is not long before an attack occurs.

Sergeant Gray is another star in the making for me and I want to read more about him. He knows Jo of old and promised Jo’s mother that he would help watch out for her daughter – this protective side creates an interesting dynamic between the two characters and the scenes with Jo and Davie Gray were high points.

One memorable moment for me was when Jo returned to her Grandmother’s house (the titular Black Wood). An unexpected incident appeared to be taking the story in a direction I had not expected. As I am avoiding any Spoilers I cannot elaborate but the sequence suddenly heightened the tension, added a new dimension to the story and made Jo appear significantly more vulnerable than I had initially envisaged. I love when an author can catch me unawares in this way.

Black Wood is one of my favourite books so far this year. A brilliant story in which the characters shine and the mysteries kept me hooked as I poured through the book desperate to find out how events would be resolved.   More from Banktoun please, I feel we need to know it better.

All that remains is to reconfirm my love for Black Wood by scoring it 5/5 and urging you to read it.


Black Wood is published by Black and White Publishing and is available in both paperback and in digital format.

You can follow Susi Holliday on Twitter: @SJIHolliday

Or visit her website at http://sjiholliday.com



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Posted April 18, 2015 by Gordon in category "5* Reviews", "From The Bookshelf