THE GOLDEN KEY / AUTHOR: MARIAN WOMACK / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: 18TH FEBRUARY
When Samuel Moncrieff arrives in London, he is a haunted man. Firstly, he’s trying to escape from the memory of the woman he loved, who died suddenly during a freak accident. Secondly, a recurring dream of a decaying house on the Norfolk flatlands seems to be luring him into a part of his psyche he does not wish to visit. But, beyond that, not even Samuel knows who he is. He is a man without a past, born at the same moment three young girls disappeared without trace on the Norfolk fens.
The celebrated medium Helena Walton-Cisneros is determined to solve the mystery of the vanished girls but, to do that, she must also solve the mystery of Samuel Moncrieff. Yet Helena has a secret of her own - she’s not a medium, she’s a private detective. Beyond possessing extraordinary powers of instinct and observation, she has no genuine connection to the afterlife. But her investigations will change all of that, and bring her into a shadowy realm where the real and the unreal co-exist and where man’s upheaval of the natural world (in this case, stirring up something highly toxic from beneath the already dangerous flatlands) has made the veil between worlds even thinner. And that’s not all. After Queen Victoria’s recent death, interest in psychics, séances and mediumship has never been greater. Divisions are already beginning to show between the various occult societies, and The True Dawn, led by the mysterious Hungarian aristocrat Count Bevcar, is creating a sinister stir. Could he be involved in this too?
Anyone whose spine was tingled by the murky marshlands and mouldy gothic architecture of Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black will find themselves in familiar territory in The Golden Key, although the atmospheric settings and mannered (sometimes hypocritical) Victorian aesthetics are where the similarities end. At its heart, The Golden Key is a beautifully told detective story that masterfully evokes the Victorian obsession with contacting the dead (there’s a particularly creepy séance scene at the beginning of the book) while also juggling a ghost story, folklore and fairy lore with a subtle nod towards contemporary environmental concerns. It’s a fantastically absorbing and often unsettling novel with a marvellously assertive charismatic heroine and a fine balance between the science and the supernatural. We hope Helena Walton-Cisneros will be making a return visit to our bookshelves very soon.