Seventeen-year-old Simon’s sister Charlotte is missing. The lonely Fenland village the family recently moved to from London is odd, silent, and mysterious. Simon is epileptic and his seizures are increasing with severity, but when he discovers the local curse of the Naseby Horses, he is convinced it has something to do with Charlotte’s disappearance. Despite resistance from the villagers, the police, and his own family, Simon is determined to uncover the truth and rescue his sister.
The Naseby Horses is a beautifully written, complex debut novel, from Dominic Brownlow. A literary mystery novel full to bursting of the most imaginative and descriptive writing.
Claustrophobic and tense, with a touch of the gothic, it includes everything from family dynamics and illness to folk history, curses and philosophy.
Our main character Simon and his family have recently moved to a small quiet village in the Fens and you immediately get the sense that this wasn’t necessarily through choice but more from necessity. His sister Charlotte has gone missing and at only 17 years of age everyone is concerned. Though not so much Simon…….
It is thought that she has perhaps returned back to London but the police have been called and an investigation has begun.
Simon suffers very badly from epilepsy and we first meet him as he is returning home from hospita,l after a very bad tonic-clonic seizure, that appears to have happened the night Charlotte disappeared. Simon is our narrator and in his world of almost constant tiny seizures, heightened perception and medication, we are transported to an almost dreamlike world of flashbacks and uncertain memories. His keen interest and knowledge of birds and his growing obsession with a centuries old story of a village curse and missing children really add a gothic and menacing feel to the story. Add in the local villagers and a emotionally distance mother and the whole place has an unsettling atmosphere.
The authors description of the auras and warning signs experienced by Simon, and his own sense of unsureness of his own memory, are wonderfully evoked and give the whole book a really claustrophobic and uncertain feel. I honestly had to go out for a short walk at one point whist reading this, as I was so drawn into the descriptions of Simon’s senses and feelings, and the atmosphere of the village, that I felt like I had been pulled under a blanket and I needed to shrug it off for a moment and get outside! As a reader I was never really sure what was real and what was Simon’s imagination, making this a great book for discussion, as it could be viewed in many different ways.
Simon as an unreliable narrator even has you wondering at some points if he knows more than he is saying about his sister’s disappearance. Could he somehow be involved? His passages about their brother/sister bond, (are they twins?) and their seemingly distance relationship growing up to their parents, somehow gives their relationship, or at least Simon’s take on their relationship a slightly sinister edge.
The books setting of a quiet and slightly left behind village in The Fens is beautifully explained and the inclusion of Simon’s passion for birds give yet another dimension to the story. I can’t believe this is a debut novel as the writing seems so confident and easy, yet it is!
As the investigation continues we learn snippets of Charlotte’s movements up to her disappearance and the book ends with a scene that allows the reader to draw their own conclusion, if in fact there is one.
A strange and beautiful novel that is well worth a read.
This is the second book I have read from Louise Walters Books and all I can say is I can’t wait to read another!
The Naseby Horses is published today, December 5th 2019.