Review: Black Wood by S. J. I. Holliday

Black Wood - S.J.I. Holliday

Publication Date: 19th March 2015 (paperback)


Publisher: Black and White Publishing


ISBN: 978-1845029531


Rating: 3.5*



Something 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?



Read for THE Book Club.

Prior to reading this book, I'd seen quite a lot of talk about it on twitter, so I was pleased when it was chosen as our book of the month.


I found the beginning of this book quite difficult to get into. It regularly flits between the present and the past, so we can learn what happened to Jo and Claire all those years ago. These are marked as 'The Woods' or 'The Boy' so as not to confuse the reader, but it felt rather disjointed in parts and a bit confusing.


I liked the atmospheric setting of Banktoun, the small community where everyone knows each other (and everything about each other, it seems!)

Claire and Jo were fairly well written, but I found it hard to like either of them find them believable. I much preferred Davie Gray; he was likeable, intelligently written and complex.


The whole story felt like it would have worked better as a shorter story. There seemed to be a lot of paragraphs that weren't really needed - almost as if the author had a word count to reach and was desperately trying to reach it. All these extra bits just distracted and bored me, so I found myself skimming them to try to get to the next 'good' part.


There were one or two twists that I hadn't forseen , but the ending was a real letdown - it felt really abrupt and implausible. The whole masked man thing was strange too - at the start of the book it was an integral part, but as the book went on, it did not bring anything exciting.


Although I have been quite critical of Black Wood, I'm aware that it is the author's debut, and I'd be happy to read another book by S. J. I. Holliday.