Robert Beveridge's Reviews > The Wicker Man

The Wicker Man by Allan Frewin Jones
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Jan 10, 2008

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bookshelves: finished
Read in January, 2008

Allan Frewin Jones, Dark Paths: The Wicker Man (MacMillan, 1998)

The first book in Allan Frewin Jones' Dark Paths series introduces us to the principals, then immediately dumps them into a scene that will likely look eerily familiar to anyone who's seen Robin Hardy's 1973 film that shares the book's name. And this is where my distress as regards this book lies; is Jones' book set in some alternate universe where that movie was never released? Because I can't imagine any way in which four otherwise savvy high school kids (three British, one American) wouldn't be able to see all the signs rushing at them like nobody's business.

We start out with the characters: Jack and Tom, the brothers, and Regan and Frankie, the ladies. Tom is the solid, down-to-earth chap, while Jack seems somewhat flighty (we, however, get inside his head and see that “flighty” is actually “psychic”). Frankie is always up for a shindig, and seems to have a thing for Tom. Regan is the brash, bold American exchange student who uses godawfully dated slang. The four of them and their teacher take a field trip one day to an archaeological expedition behind a pub called the Green Man; the chap running the dig has just unearthed a mummified horse's head that he believes dates back to the iron age. One of the village's inhabitants mutters dark portents at the head being unearthed, and then mysterious things start happening to the four youths, who find themselves strangely attracted to the village.

It's not an awful book-- the writing is competent, the characters are a little more three-dimensional than cardboard cutouts (though I just can't get over Regan's dialogue, which is painful, and I will keep adding parenthetical comments about it if I don't end this review soon)-- but it tends to plod when there's not something mysterious going on, and when there is something mysterious going on, I kept asking myself how sheltered these kids have been to have not even heard of one of the best movies ever made. (Amusingly, I also ran across an episode of Grace and Favour last week-- I'm catching reruns for the umpty-ninth time on my local PBS station-- that also explores the taking-the-dead-animal-out-of-the-wall thing; Mr. Humphries may be passe these days, but I still can't imagine British children not at least knowing of its existence.) And Regan's slang definitely places the book, timewise, at least a decade after the movie came out.

Given the lengths I had to go to to find a copy of this one, I can't see myself continuing on with the series, but if you stumble across it in a used bookshop, enjoy a decent mystery, and aren't bothered by the cultural ineptitude of the characters (and their awful dated slang), by all means give it a go. **
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