The Story Keeper
A dark tale of folklore and disappearances on the Isle of Skye.
Audrey Hart travels to Skye and to the mansion of a reclusive folklorist to collect the folk and fairy tales of the local people. It is 1857, the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and the crofters are suspicious and hostile, claiming they no longer know their stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up in the bay beneath Lanerly, and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
At first, Audrey suspects that the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.
‘Casts its own dark magic’ – SUNDAY MIRROR
‘A twisty, atmospheric crime story’ – DAILY MAIL
‘Filled with narrative drive and energy’ – THE SUNDAY TIMES
‘The book has the wonderfully creepy flavour of the work of Victorian suspense novelists like Sheridan Le Fanu – SUNDAY EXPRESS
‘A riveting Gothic-flavoured story’ – WOMAN & HOME
‘As eerie and atmospheric as it is enthralling and beautiful’ – HEAT
‘A must-read novel’ – THE SUN
‘An atmospheric and eerie read’ – PRIMA
‘Gripping Gothic thriller’ – BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE
‘An atmospheric, suspenseful mystery which makes a compelling read.’ – HISTORICAL NOVEL REVIEW
‘A chilling and refreshingly inventive Gothic novel that constantly subverts the reader’s expectations.’ – ANDREW TAYLOR
‘Daphne Du Maurier fans will be hugging this to their chests. A compelling mystery drenched with atmosphere’ – LAURA PURCELL (The Silent Companions)
‘Darkly Gothic and soaked in atmosphere’ – RACHEL RHYS/TAMMY COHEN (Dangerous Crossing)
‘A fierce and poignant novel, about superstitions & everything they conceal’. – BETH UNDERDOWN (The Witchfinder’s Sister)
‘Intoxicating. And creepy. And compulsive. I loved it!’ – ALI LAND (Good Me, Bad Me)
‘Creepy and compelling.’ – SARAH HILARY
‘Wonderfully dark, atmospheric and utterly captivating’ – ROWAN COLEMAN
The idea for The Story Keeper came from a real case from the 1880s, the West Ham Vanishings, in which a number of young girls disappeared from the slums of East London. One of them, Eliza Carter, returned briefly before her final disappearance to tell her friends that the fairies had kidnapped her and forbidden her to return home. Her dress was later found in West Ham Park, its buttons missing, but she was never seen again.
Rather than base the novel on the real case, as I had done with The Unseeing, I decided to transport it to a different place, a place where fairy belief was still alive and well.
I needed to find a country in which many people still believed in fairies and folklore in the 1800s, a place with a rich oral history and a place steeped in magic. When I visited Skye, with its beautiful and eerie landscape, and its history of cleared people and stolen stories, I knew I had found the right place.
Although The Story Keeper is very much a work of fiction, the accounts given of the Clearances of Suisnish and Boreraig are based on real accounts of the brutal and heartbreaking scenes that took place as families were forcibly driven from their homes. You can read more here.
Part of the joy of writing the book was the number of folk and fairy tales it entitled me to read. The stories related in the novel are mainly adaptations of tales found in 19th century collections of folklore: Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland by John Gregorson Campbell (1862), Popular Tales of the West Highlands by J. F. Campbell (1890), and Folklore of the Isle of Skye by Mary Julia MacCulloch (1922).
The fairy tale that runs through the novel is my own invention, inspired by the dark and peculiar Celtic fairy tales that I’ve used to terrify my own children. Many are available here.
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