Lynnwood by Thomas Brown
“Lynnwood, a debut novel by Thomas Brown, is an absorbing, atmospheric dip into mystery, suspense and horror.
“This short novel is set in and around the English village of Lynnwood, which, although only a dozen miles from Southampton, is buried deep in the New Forest. It is an ancient village and to outward appearances, is an idyllic place to live. Freya has lived there all her life, originally with her parents, then her husband, Robert and their children. When the story begins, Robert is no longer on the scene and almost immediately, one begins to feel that all is not well in this beautiful village. As the story progresses, we learn about some of the myths attached to the area - these appear to be echoed in dreams being experienced by Freya and some of the people she knows. Freya’s son, George, has had some strange experiences down by the disused railway tunnel and speaks to his mother of a “friend” who dwells in the tunnel.
“To tell more of the story would spoil it for other readers, but I will say that this is a well-written piece. The descriptions of the Forest are so good; Thomas Brown is able to create a setting which comes alive. He builds the suspense gradually, until the chill creeps from the pages and you wonder what exactly the mystery behind the strange happenings in Lynnwood is.
“I will certainly be looking out for more books by Thomas Brown!”
Angela Thomas, Reviewer, UK
“When I started reading this one, it stopped me in my tracks. Holy. Cow. There is a young and unknown author, telling a tale with the eloquence, stylishness and vivid atmosphere of a seasoned Poppy Z. Brite and Anne Rice. Seriously – the way Brite and Rice evoke Louisiana and the Deep South, he paints a vivid picture of the New Forest into your very soul. A dark picture, and, I take it back, he doesn’t paint it, he carves it into you with a knife. It takes skill to scare this here book lady: I’ve devoured dark fiction of any kind since I was about 9, from the classics to the vilest splatterpunk, and I thought, I'm dead inside, man. Dead. I can count on one hand the books that truly made me pull up the duvet to my nose at night and stare into the shadows, or that enchanted me with their ability to create a film in my head or punch me straight in the guts. This is one of them. The way it morphs from the quaint and picturesque to the feral is deeply unsettling and fascinating in equal measure, making you question how stable our sense of civilisation really is. It has the earthy, eerie folklore flavour of Adam Nevill, Clive Barker and the Wicker Man, in spookiness easily rivalling Susan Hill and Henry James. Yet Brown’s voice is powerfully and uniquely his own. An incredible debut and an author I’ll be keeping an eye out for!And I'll be buying a hardcopy for my collection of doom!”
Patty Dohle, Waterstones Bookseller, UK
“I read this book in two sittings, a fast read, and I found it to be very interesting. A dark gothic type of tale that will have you chilled to the bones. A quaint little town that has people going missing in the Midwinter each year, this has been going on for a long time. Outer appearances show Lynnwood to be a nice little village with nice people, an ideal place to live, away from the hustle and bustle of a big city. But not all is what it appears to be as an evil lurks beneath the surface of this village. It took me awhile to figure out what was actually going on, as the author’s writing was very poetic and gave nothing away. This is the type of book to read curled up in front of a fire, just don’t be alone...I enjoyed it immensely.”
Kathleen Kelly, Reviewer, USA
“This book took me a little while to get into. I’m not a horror fan in the sense that I read it very often. I will say that I love my YA and my Fantasy/Dark Fantasy first and foremost. However, I love reading other genres too, but I gravitate towards YA/Fantasy/ParaRomance. However, now that my warning has been stated, I will say that this book was pretty enjoyable. I would say it is a cross between, for me, Torchwood meets Stephen King. Which was really interesting when you see it meshed together.
“The story had a good flow and a nice steady pace. At 192 pages it isn’t terribly long but it was enough to get the story told and to do it well. I read about the author as he is an MFA student. Since I am heading into my application season ... I do my best to check out what graduates and current students are putting out there. I will say this: I can see why they accepted him into the program. His writing was clean, fluid, and all the blocks fell into place with each other.
“This is an exceptionally well written story that I really enjoyed reading. It is set in the UK with their style of speaking, etc. So, if you aren't familiar with some of the subtle changes between the US and the UK English this will definitely teach you a little bit. But, I felt that it strengthened the story and really brought a great connection between the characters and myself. I definitely enjoyed reading it. The horror was there and he definitely reminded me of King, but the best parts of him. Brown isn’t overly wordy but does give good description. I loved Stephen King’s The Talisman and if you’re a fan of King ... well, to put it nicely, we all know how long winded Mr. King can get. Brown is nothing like that. While he gives you great narration and description, he doesn’t make you go, ‘oh my god ... can we get to the point already?’ He goes off and adds the beauty of the words but doesn’t get into the long winded mode some writers can do.”
Amanda Harris, Reviewer, USA
“It’s difficult to pinpoint what makes horror drip from the spine of LYNNWOOD without spoiling its main course. It disturbs without resorting to a single horror cliche. Upon first glance, LYNNWOOD dictates the story of Freya, mother of two, who lives in the quaint English countryside. Blessed by the fortune left from deceased parents, Freya spends much of her time wandering the town and surrounding forest. Without the sparse mentions of modern luxuries and dates in the recent years, the simplicity of the villagers’ lifestyles would leave readers believing this story occurred in the middle ages rather than the modern age.
“Using terminology and British spellings for words, the atmosphere is strengthened by the expertise of the author’s word choice. The descriptions are so crisp that I could nearly smell the bacon and egg breakfast that Freya cooked and gorged herself with every morning or hear Freya’s footsteps through her well-travelled path through the forest. I felt the hairs on my arms prickle when the setting switched to the abandoned railroad tunnel.
“The frequent flashbacks into Freya’s blissful childhood illuminated the cracking sanity and simple 'wrongness' of the villagers’ behaviour when the focus shifted back to present day. A hunger builds from the first scene until the last and as a reader I didn’t feel satisfied until the last page was turned in this psychological horror.
“And so I leave you with a review that aims to tease your taste buds rather than stuff you with fillers (mostly because its too easy to spoil the surprise). As with any horror book done well, how the story unfolds matters as much as the content and this book doesn’t disappoint.”
Lizzy Lessard, Reviewer, USA
“This atmospheric chiller is perceptibly menacing from the first sentence. Set in the idyllic village of Lynnwood, set on the edge of the New Forest in England, the truth of the village’s heritage is glimpsed through the eyes of villager, Freya. She discovers the charred remains of a pig on a morning walk with her dog, and this stirs a hunger in her. Freya has been a vegetarian for years, ever since her husband, inexplicably and suddenly left her; and this renewed hunger for meat is disturbing.
“The villagers are a superstitious lot, friendly to the tourists that come to visit, but always glad to see them leave. However, there have been disappearances of visitors and villagers alike over the years; put down to being either lost in the Forest, or the victim of the legendary Bauchan, the hungry spirits of the local brook and Forest since the fourteenth century. These skeletal creatures can be seen only from the corner of the eye slipping between the trees of Forest. But that’s what they are; a local legend; a story told to children to keep them safe from falling into the waters of Bauchan Brook. Or are they? As Midwinter draws nigh, it is said that the hunger of the Bauchan intensifies, and the villagers can do naught but lock their doors tight against the night, peeking through drawn curtains with fear filled eyes.
“Freya is friends with the vicar; Joan Andrews, a seventy-one year old, steady woman who whispers of a dark recurring dream she has each night. Of a fly faced woman that draws ever nearer, one step closer with each dream. Freya convinces her to confront her night-time fears by visiting the clearing in the Forest where the dream occurs. Together they go to the Forest, but the vicar never returns. Bereft by the loss of Ms. Andrews, Freya seeks solace with her best friend, Catherine, the local vintner, both drinking large quantities of wine to drown their loneliness and growing sense of dread. Then, one day, Freya goes to Catherine’s house to find her gone.
“Freya, in clearing our the old Vicarage, comes across diaries of those who came before, and learns of the history of Lynnwood. That its first years were filled with starvation; a hunger so deep and desperate that some committed unspeakable acts. And that the hunger remains to this day.
“This gripping gothic novella drew me in and kept me turning the pages until the horrific revelations of the last pages. This debut novella is a fast read, good for both young adults and adults that enjoy horror that is more edgy than gory.”
Maria Wolff, Librarian, USA
“I gave this book 5 stars for being well-written...The village of Lynnwood is tucked away in England’s New Forest, a bucolic and slow-moving locale with much evidence of its historic past. Indeed, the schoolchildren attend classes in a building constructed several centuries ago for that very purpose. But the bucolic peace of Lynnwood is a misnomer, or rather an illusion cast upon the villagers, for there are inexplicable forces in the Forest and in the abandoned railway tunnel, forces that cause the inhabitants to disappear.”
Mallory Heart Reviews, USA
“I really enjoyed Lynnwood, and will be recommending it a lot. Really well written gothics are kind of rare, and such well written debuts are not to be missed.
“Hard to believe this is a first novel. Thomas Brown writes with a tremendously polished style and creates scenes that you can not only see, but also smell and even taste. He is also a master at building suspense and horror. I read this book quickly because I had to see what was coming next, and it was a chilling Gothicky experience--delightful! This book would appeal to fans of Shirley Jackson and MR James, really to anybody who likes a good Gothic spiced with horror and a lot of style.”
Sue Buchman, Librarian, USA
See also Featherbones by Thomas Brown