Desert Isle Keeper
Guardians of the Haunted Moor
Guardians of the Haunted Moor is the fifth in Harper Fox’s series of Tyack and Frayne Mysteries. As always the author gives us a beautifully atmospheric work, with elements that took my breath away. In the prologue, Gideon Frayne describes his husband, Lee Tyack –
His beautiful west-coast lad was all the silver part of his spectrum today, a winter-beach pallor under his skin, his eyes full of strange lights.
In this, we see the strength of these tales and Ms. Fox’s work – she tells wonderful stories with writing that has the power to stun with its descriptive beauty. Guardians of the Moor returns us to the familiar ground of Bodmin Moor, and the village of Dark. It is home turf for these characters, policeman and paranormal advisor – and of course now loving husbands. This doesn’t make the tale any the less gruesome in places, but ensures emotions run high, causing this reader to blink back tears by the end of the first quarter.
Simply put, there are heart-breaking events at home for our heroes, and a gruesome murder on the eve of Guldize, the Pagan harvest home celebrations. The mixture of Pagan ritual, paranormal activities and nature is used in a way that makes the unbelievable believable – and the believable feel it’s missing something. As you read this tale – part investigation of the murder, part personal and paranormal revelation – you realise that the author is taking you on this journey so gently, with such poetics in the narrative structure, you will accept any outcome, be it paranormal, prosaic, or a combination of both.
These characters, Tyack and Frayne, are so well known to readers now (if you have read the series in order – and why wouldn’t you?), that you would be forgiven for thinking they might retreat a little for the sake of the plot, but they do not, which is as it should be. They are central as always, and Harper Fox illustrates metaphorically how relationships grow, change and strengthen through time and even hardship. There are some lovely new characters to meet in this episode – particularly Sergeant Pendower. He’s sort of the Cornish police’s answer to Mulder, or would that be Scully? Oh, and there’s Granny Ragwen, a character who drags along an ancient esoteric atmosphere in her wake. However, she raises a more human question regarding those with clairvoyant sensitivities such as Lee.
As always I do not want to give too much away – the linguistic path along which Harper Fox takes the reader and her characters is as enjoyable as the story itself. This is probably the only novella in this series that I feel cannot be read as a standalone. The emotional plotline packs a greater punch when read as part of the series.
In a novella where eyes lit by a fire become –
…dark eyes, lambent in the bonfire’s tawny blaze
And a policeman having a quiet moment –
He didn’t feel like a copper anymore – just a man, sharing a sunlit silence with the other half of his soul.
I remain beguiled by this author’s use of language and skill and am eagerly looking forward to the next full length book in this series, Preacher, Prophet, Beast, which is due for release in April, 2017.