Tree of Crows by Lewis Davies [Review]

Winter is drawing in on the High Vans, and secrets and rumours run as deep as the snow that cover the hills.

The story follows three people who call the place home. Elan who has been missing these last two years, she is thought to have abandoned the mountains to go live with the travellers, that pass though each year.

Elan’s brother Cain, who still lives and works the Vans, keeping his farm running through the harsh winter, and his livestock safe. Livestock which is being mysteriously killed off.

Someone else that has been losing stock, is an old friend of Elan, Nye John. Living alone in a remote cottage on the far side of the Brechfa. Each year he believes some wild animal is at fault for the kills, this year it’s wolves.

Few believe him, especially as he’s known for his wild theories. But when there is already the pervading feeling of something unaccounted for on the mountains. It’s enough to cause a sense of unease, and that before winter is out, something best kept secret, is going to reveal itself.

For a little book (just under 100 pages), this one certainly feels a lot bigger. The cold, harsh and sparse landscapes of the High Vans feel very real, and as the truth begins to unravel, they turn dark and surprisingly claustrophobic. There is a murder mystery to solve, and it’s deeply entwined within the lives of the three protagonists, and watching the truth slowly appear is worth reading the book for anyway. But it’s the brooding atmosphere that Davies has created and the character of the High Vans themselves that are the real delight of this one, it’s clear though his prose that Davies is a poet as well as a novelist.

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