I was intrigued to see how Francine Toon’s Pine was a ‘gothic thriller’ as the Guardian claimed on the front cover and I still am not sure how!
The novel is set in the Highlands and follows a third person narrative switching from following daughter Lauren and father Niall. Their relationship is fractured by Niall’s drinking, the decaying of their house and her absent mother that he won’t speak to her about.
Lauren is presented as an outcast. She is bullied at school and lives a little differently than everyone else. Likewise, when she was younger she stumbled upon her mother’s tarot cards and happens to be good at reading them.
As the novel progressive weird and what Toon wants to be creepy stuff begins to happen. Circles of stones are found. Voices are heard. And the main event that set this all off was the woman Lauren and her father found in the middle of the road, brought home and then disappears in the morning. Her father forgets she was even there in the morning. Lauren begins to notice that a lot of people forget she exists once they have seen her. What could be going on?
It’s all too predictable. Niall’s emotions towards the woman already explain a lot and the constant and blatant discussion of Lauren’s mother makes it pretty obvious who the woman is.
The only suspense and tension in the novel occur at the end when Anne-Marie goes missing. It was this part of the story where what happened to Lauren’s mother occurs and something I didn’t already guess happened.
However, the ending is not all that satisfying because it’s all too rushed. The whole thing ends in a couple of pages and it’s highly unsatisfactory.
I did like Lauren’s character (besides her connection with the spiritual). I think this book would have been better without all that stuff. A simple murder mystery without the thriller element. Looking into a complicated father-daughter relationship and being an outcast in a remote area. Toon could have written this perfectly without all the try-hard gothic literature stuff.
So the cover is pretty and the reviews are okay, should you read Pine? It’s not a bad read just don’t get too excited about reading something that’s going to give you a thrill.