Illustration Nominations | A Warlock in Whitby

Aufwader’s Pick: 

‘At The Church of St Mary’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

This one is a piece that I clearly recall from the first time I read this book in full – I was so startled by how malevolent and scheming Nathaniel looks here. His expression as he interrogates the guardian is captured in a wonderfully lifelike manner, and I have to speculate whether his appearance was based on a real actor?  You really can see that his ‘charm’ is quite phoney and fake, and that in reality, he is a somewhat gaunt, rather shoddily-dressed crook with ideas above his talents. Winner of the Most Shoddily-Dressed Magic User Award, indeed.



‘The Rising of Morgawrus’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

I love everything about this, but especially the fact that it looks like a still from a 1990s television series. Look at that set! I can imagine it sparkling turquoise, blue, and violet, and hear the ear-splitting shrieks of the last Mallykin as it flees for its life. (I also love the tiny spirals of curling dust in the top right. That technique is one I picked up from Mr Jarvis and have used to good effect before.)

Matt’s Pick: 

‘The Demon and the Dog’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

Maybe I’ve been missing it in earlier books, but I’ve noticed that Robin was really starting to play with some odd ‘camera angles’ in his illustrations for this book. So you look at this one, where we’re sort of staring over the shoulder of the transforming Deacon. It’s brilliant because we’ve got that terrifying claw in the foreground, a look of terror on Miss Boston’s face (and we all know she’s not an easy woman to scare) and, best of all, a dangerous feeling of distance between that railing and the ground below. It feels tense and terrifying – but also a nod to classic black and white monster movies as well.

‘Blotmonath’ (c) Robin Jarvis, 1992

One word: Mirror. I love the mirror effect here. We only have Ben and Crozier in the frame, so we can only see Jennet in the mirror. For me, it’s the combination of Ben’s haircut (which reinforces how young he is) and the Mallykin on the floor that make this one brilliant.

I was lamenting a little bit that there is no picture of Morgawrus to be found in this book but, you know what? There are some things that are probably better left to the imagination.

Mr Jarvis’ Book of the Dead | A Warlock in Whitby

Gravestones at Whitby abbey
In this post we record for posterity and remembrance the names of all those who have fallen to the fatal stroke of Mr Jarvis’ pen. Hero, villain, or neither, we honour their sacrifice for the greater myth of the story.

The deceased of A Warlock in Whitby are as follows: 

MR ROPER  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 5 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 9)  Hereditary protector of one of the ancient guardians fettering Morgawrus in eternal sleep, Mr Roper was a kindly old gentleman who was tortured and finally murdered by Nathaniel Crozier in Crozier’s pursuit of the guardians. Mr Roper showed great courage in the face of his demise, and has now joined his beloved wife, Margaret. May he rest in peace.

DANNY TURNER  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 2 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 11)  This wayward troublemaker was viciously slain by the last of the Mallykin race. Coming from an abusive home, he never had the chance to escape his upbringing or make something of himself. He will be remembered by his family and friends.

MRS PATRICIA GUNNING  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 6 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 11)  A powerful white witch, Patricia was used as a lure to draw Alice Boston away from Whitby at a time when she might have been most needed. According to the designs of the warlock Crozier, Judith Deacon, Mrs Gunning’s private nurse and devotee of the cult of the Black Sceptre, poisoned her patient slowly to death. Patricia died warning Miss Boston of Deacon’s deceit, and will be fondly remembered by all who knew her.

PRAWNY NUSK  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 3 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 13) Courageous aufwader and trusted friend of Tarr Shrimp, Mr Nusk perished at the fell claws of the Mallykin. He will be missed by all the tribe.

BACCY  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 10 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 13)  Another brave member of the aufwader tribe who fell to the Mallykin. Deeps keep her.

JOHAB  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 3 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 13)  Elder of the tribe, Johab did not approve of Esau’s action despite being at his right hand. Stalwart and fearless to the end, he died facing the Mallykin.

ESAU GRENDEL  (The Whitby Witches | Ch 12 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 13) Elder and leader of the tribe, Esau lived for eight hundred years before the Mallykin and his own warped lust for power caught up with him. During the rise of Morgawrus, he was buried beneath the cliff within which he spent his years, and only the Deep Ones know what became of his wretched soul.

THE LAST MALLYKIN  (A Warlock in Whitby | Prologue – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 13) This bloodthirsty fish demon was brought forth by Nathaniel Crozier to do his despicable bidding, and many souls fell to its razoring claws. It was crushed to death during the awakening of Morgawrus – a deserved fate after the suffering it brought to the world.

JUDITH DEACON  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 6 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 14) Devotee of Nathaniel Crozier, werewitch and murderess, Ms Deacon was accidentally killed by Mrs Gunning’s butler when he attempted to defend Miss Boston from Ms Deacon’s attack. She is also guilty of the murder of Mrs Gunning by slow poisoning, and perhaps other undocumented crimes carried out on Crozier’s behalf.

NATHANIEL CROZIER [‘HIGH PRIEST OF THE BLACK SCEPTRE’]   (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 1 – A Warlock in Whitby | Ch 14)  Warlock, cult leader, and so-called ‘most evil man in the world’, Crozier was responsible for countless despicable crimes, including infanticide and other murders. His desire to bind the serpent Morgawrus to his dark will was thwarted by Alice Boston and the guardian wrought by Irl. Crozier’s body was calcified by the breath of Morgawrus, and his end was ignoble and agonising.

MORGAWRUS  (A Warlock in Whitby | Ch14)  Fiend of the deep oceans, this abomination of nature was raised from slumber by Nathaniel Crozier, and returned to its fetters by Alice Boston. Long may it sleep beneath the waves of Whitby bay.

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 14


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘I defy you, Morgawrus,’ Aunt Alice proclaimed.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This finale has absolutely everything. There are the kind of huge set-pieces and magical ballyhoo we have come to expect, as well as lots of lightning, lots of things being set on fire, and lots of absolutely spiffy character moments. My two favourites are definitely Nelda testing the weight of one of Miss Boston’s good vases with a view to lobbing it at Nathaniel’s head, and Miss Boston herself swirling her cloak about her shoulders and uttering that immortal line, ‘The time has come’, before striding to meet her nemesis on the storm-lashed cliff above Whitby. Go forth and conquer, Alice!

Aside from the finale of The Final Reckoning and those of each of the Histories books, this has to be one of the endings I enjoy rereading the most. When I read this final chapter to write up this post, I was still swept into the drama and epic horror of the rising of Morgawrus. I still cheered for Miss Boston and worried for Ben and Jennet, and I may have grinned a satisfied grin when Nathaniel crumbled like a stick of Whitby rock.

For all I remembered this finale more vividly than Matt, I was still surprised and pleased to find that Morgawrus had a few lines and a bit of personality, even if he only has a slither-on part. He is not the only enormous serpent demon we will meet in the course of this project, and he does get, er, overshadowed, further down the line, but he’s certainly an imposing specimen. Personally, I’m inclined to make happy cooing noises at him as one would to a fluffy little puppy or kitten, but I acknowledge that the rest of you probably don’t share my starry-eyed joy at the thought of a titanic, serpentine fiend from the dawn of time arising from the depths to resume its role as scourge of all living things.

In any case, with the epilogue that greets us after that monumental show-down, it looks as if we’re in for quite a bit of hell and high water in The Whitby Child. What will become of Ben and Jennet, with their beloved Aunt Alice unable to protect them? And what terrible fate awaits Nelda in the months ahead?


Matt’s Thoughts: And how’s that for a finale? There’s a giant serpent that lives under Whitby and if you let it out – it will trash the place. No wonder they love Robin Jarvis in Whitby. Who wouldn’t like the idea that there is a giant creature sleeping under your city that could destroy it at any moment? You’d never look at the cliffs the same ever again.

It’s also probably the most epic serpent/dragon myth (at least as far size is concerned!) in the Jarvis universe, so all those hints about Hilda fighting off serpents, serpents carved into the arms of the Triad throne – all of these become a sort of epic foreshadowing leading up to this finale.

And then Miss Boston appears! Saved from a werewolf by a drunken butler armed with a port bottle, no less. (A nicely comic ending for what was otherwise a rather terrifying villainess.)

One thing I did notice reading it this time which I’d never noticed before was that the way Alice activates the final guardian is to call on the power of several forces – the Church, the Moon and the Lords of the Deep. This might actually explain why, in the previous Whitby book, we were wondering why the Mother Superior and Miss Boston seemed to have such respect for each other. Did they sense, in a way, that their powers were meant to combine to keep Whitby safe?

This sort of mythology of what might be behind different beliefs is explored a bit more fully in the new Witching Legacy series, so I’m sure we’ll get around to that next year.

Finally, poor old Miss Boston and the state she’s left in at the end of the book! I was privately sharing with Aufwader when we were writing the posts for this book that my memory was really rusty on what happened in these final two Whitby books. I remembered the showdown with Morgawrus, but for some reason thought that something as epic as a showdown with a giant serpent surely must be the end of Book 3.

But, no, that was the end of Book 2, Miss Boston has had a stroke, and Nelda is pregnant. I now officially cannot for the life of me remember what our heroes get thrown into in Book 3, but it must be huge. Which is definitely making me look forward to getting back into it.

However, that’s in another month from now. Starting in a few days, we’ll all be polishing our best bat and squirrel theories, because it’s the one that everybody (it seems like) has been waiting for: The Oaken Throne.

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 13


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The end had indeed come.

Aufwader’s Thoughts: All right but how terrifying is it when Prawny Nusk is thinking he’s evaded the Mallykin, only to hear scuffling noises from over his head? The cassette version missed out that particular detail, and I always find it absolutely chilling, especially because, for a while at least, we feel as if Prawny might be in for a fighting chance.

The brave last stand of the aufwaders brought a tear to my eye – especially when Tarr called upon those who were left to go down defending themselves rather than fleeing. It’s such an important moment for his character, as, in making that stand, Tarr has now stepped up in a way that he seemed incapable of before, even when Hesper died or when his granddaughter was being forced into matrimony. He’s always been a tough old pebble, but from now on he can really begin to come into his own as a leader of the tribe.

Reading that small page or so where Nelda takes the guardian from the Darkmirror and flees made me feel queasy when I was a young reader. It makes me feel queasy now, too, but I’m glad it wasn’t censored out or glossed over, because for all it uses the device of a young girl’s body as commodity, it handles that exceptionally well. These days, the entire forced marriage aspect probably wouldn’t make it past the first draft, but I think that says a lot about mainstream middle-grade publishing today and our changing attitude to what we believe young readers can and can’t handle, as opposed to being a comment on the worth of the sub-plot itself.

Ever since Esau tricked Nelda into marrying him, she has simply been doing whatever she could under the circumstances, and I find it incredibly powerful that her decisions throughout are portrayed as just that. She is just doing what she can to save herself and her people. There’s no romanticisation of her plight at any point, and no shame or blame attributed to her for her actions. You would think that would be a given, but, sadly, such an approach is the exception, even today. My respect to Mr Jarvis for the sensitive and impactful way he handled Nelda’s journey in this book, and my respect to the publishers who let Nelda be brave.


Matt’s Thoughts: I’d secretly love to know (says me, as I write this out in a public blog!) how much back and forth there was with the editors over this whole chapter. Anyway, regardless of that, I found it to be one of the most gripping chapters I’d read in a Jarvis book so far.

It’s so intense. The Mallykin – who, because his violence has been largely off-screen and/or reined in by Nathaniel – finally comes into his own and we realise that this thing is bloodthirsty (and difficult to defeat!).

And then, we’re just reeling from that, when wham! Mr Jarvis hits us with Esau’s hideous deal with Nelda. I’m sure it was controversial for its time, but given that we’re still dealing with the question of how women are treated today (and I’m made more aware of this, having a daughter), it still has a resonance today.

And then just as if that wasn’t enough, it turns out that that black pool is a giant serpent’s eye. The whole thing is just brilliant and I doubt anybody could stop there.

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 12


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘The Anglo-Saxons called it Blotmonath – the month of blood.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: This is definitely one of those chapters that would work very well on the small screen. The otherwise cosy and safe environs of Miss Boston’s cottage become claustrophobic with the arrival of Nathaniel and the gruesome Mallykin, and Ben’s helplessness serves to make a bad situation worse. In The Whitby Witches, Miss Boston’s home was a safe place for the children, somewhere they could return to if the world became too threatening and full of supernatural horrors.

Reading this chapter, I remembered Jennet sitting awake in bed during Book 1, hearing the howls of the Barguest outside but protected from its terrible jaws by the charms over the doorway. It’s testament to how the tone of the trilogy changes in this book – and to the threat that Nathaniel presents as the main antagonist – that it is Jennet who has now unwittingly destroyed the protections around the cottage, allowing all manner of supernatural nightmares to enter.


Matt’s Thoughts: Poor old Ben! This time round he gets the trauma of Nathaniel arriving in the house with a Mallykin in tow.

It’s about this point that I realised that it’s quite a clever plot point having Ben with supernatural powers and Jennet being just his ‘normal’ sister. If they both had the sight, then you wouldn’t be able to get the horrific tension of this chapter, where from Jennet’s perspective, she’s entertaining a guest and making cups of tea. From Ben’s point of view, his sister is about to be savaged by a vicious monster. What makes it so effective is complete lack of awareness of the danger that lurks around her.

And then the final scene in the Gregsons … while it’s the destruction of the guardian that is the terrible part that is going to release doom on Whitby, for me, it’s the interactions between the Gregsons that makes this scene so effective. Mrs Gregson, spoon-feeding her husband and begging him not to die and leave her alone. The same husband that, a few days ago, she had nothing but contempt for. While the Gregsons wouldn’t be pleasant people to hang around under normal circumstances, Mr Jarvis invites us to show a moment of compassion (again!) and reminder us that no one deserves to have Nathaniel Crozier happen to them.

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 11


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Soon Nathaniel and I will be together,’ Miss Deacon growled, and her teeth were visibly larger.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  I feel like this is one of those chapters that everyone remembers. Even if they haven’t read this trilogy for many years, mention this particular book to even the most casual Robin Jarvis fan and you’ll either get, ‘oh isn’t that the one where the kid gets ripped to bits by the little sea monster?’ or ‘isn’t that the one where Alice Boston gets menaced by a werewolf witch pretending to be a nurse?’

Everything about this chapter is so flamboyantly ghoulish that it definitely sticks in people’s brains, and it certainly stayed with me after I heard it on cassette. I was one of those who recalled The Case of Miss Boston and the Evil Nurse more than I remembered Danny’s awful fate, but both are moments of real tension and horror, and, after Nathaniel in the Church of St Mary, are two of the most stand-out scenes in this novel.

On reread, I realised I had forgotten about Nathaniel’s role in both the death of the young bully, and the ploy to keep Miss Boston away from Whitby. After his callous murder of Mr Roper in Chapter 9 – not to mention the plots for world domination – it seemed as if Mr Crozier could not get any more nefarious. This chapter proves that assumption wrong with gusto, and also introduces one of the main elements of The Whitby Child in the form of Judith Deacon, werewitch.

Earlier, it was established that Roslyn Crozier’s ability to transform into a hellhound was in some way connected to Nathaniel. Although Roslyn is gone, it appears that she was not the only one upon whom certain powers were bestowed in return for allegiance. How many more lonely, vulnerable women has Nathaniel drawn into his dark thrall, and what manner of vile deeds might they perform against Ben, Jennet, and Miss Boston in the blindness of their devotion?


Matt’s Thoughts: This chapter gets me from two angles. On the one hand, there’s the part of me that has been having a lot of conversations with commenters on this blog over the last few months about what Jarvis film adaptations might look like. But when I get to a chapter like this one, I realise that there’s no way someone is going to make a kids movie with these scenes in them – at least not delivered the way they come across in the book.

So I feel this sense of gleeful delight in Robin’s writing (which could well be totally imagined and perhaps it’s just me reading into it!) that he’s thrown aside any fears of what parents, teachers or highly-sensitive readers are going to think, and is just going for it on the creepy stakes. So here we go with fish demons teaching young kids the evils of nicotine addiction and lycanthropic nurses!

But then there’s the other part of me that is totally invested in the story and hooked in by the grimness of the whole thing. Also, because the back story to the London subplot is never explained in detail, we don’t know exactly how Nathaniel engineered every detail or how long ago he has been planning it. All we know is, this is that moment in the story where you realise the bad guy is in control of everything and he’s got no conscience whatsoever.

This just takes me back to the grand days of 70s horror novels (all right, I’ve only read half a dozen of them, but still). And what a great cliffhanger!

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 10


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Let the Briding commence!’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: Along with last time’s dreadful instalment, this chapter is definitely pretty high on the list of Chapters From The Whitby Witches Trilogy We All Remember But By Gow We Wish We Didn’t. Everything about it is just so, so hard to read when you are an adult and you know what’s passing through Esau’s wizened noggin as he eyeballs his reluctant bride in her wedding gown. The fact that Nelda outwits him at the close of the chapter is small comfort in the face of the endless years of imprisonment she has to look forward to, and we can only hope that the doom the Lords of the Deep promised for Esau is on its way.

If we take a second to look at it from Ben’s point of view, the ghastly situation is actually magnified in its awfulness. The whole way to the aufwader caves, the poor kid was probably thinking that Nelda had suddenly fallen in love and forgotten him completely in favour of some dashing aufwader gent. After all, the only experience Ben has of the grown-up world of romance so far is Jennet, who is besotted with Nathaniel ‘by the dark powers invested in me’ Crozier.

From Ben’s perspective, it’s perfectly possible and probable that Nelda might be caught up in a whirlwind of impossible-to-understand but seemingly inevitable infatuation. ‘Doesn’t Nelda want to get married?’ he asks innocently, and I think we can all relate when he clutches his stomach in horror upon learning how things truly stand.


Matt’s Thoughts: Those of us who read the first book in the series have pretty clear memories that the Lords of the Deep are, on the whole, a miserable bunch. Placing curses on the aufwader race, drowning people that they don’t like, only doing favours when they can get moonkelp, that sort of thing.

Not really the kind that I’d invite along for a Saturday afternoon’s fishing trip.

So when you find yourself, as a reader, agreeing with the Lords of the Deep that Esau should not be marrying Nelda, you realise just how disgusting and old Esau actually is. Then, throw in the fact that he’s happy to offer mortal insults to the aforementioned Lords rather than give up what he wants – geez! He just does not care.

I also admire Nelda for sticking to her guns at the end, but it’s not a great situation to be in.

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 9


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

The mist behind him billowed and curled, forming a spectral tunnel of smoke, and framed at the far end of it, prowling slowly towards him, came Nathaniel.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  This chapter is absolutely sadistic, there’s no other word for it. I cringed inwardly to read that shockingly violent encounter between Ben and Jennet and the bullies. I admit I reacted rather like Miss Wethers (‘they did what?’) and was very pleased to see the dithery postmistress up in arms on the children’s behalf.

On reread I also appreciated the quietly ominous scene between the museum curator and Nathaniel. Honestly, that beardy creepster could make skipping through a meadow seem sinister, and here the deep dark of evening and the unassuming silence of the closed museum only add to the already chilling atmosphere Nathaniel brings with him into every scene.

Finally, a moment of silence for Mr Roper. The awful tortures he endures were absolutely seared into my memory as a child (to this day I have not forgotten the stinging ants! Thanks for the nightmares, Mr Jarvis!) but this time I also noticed the explicit foreshadowing of Mr Roper’s death in the opening of the scene.  Not only do we get, ‘The faint beat of the dance band was like the distant pulse of a dying man’, but also, ‘the sound of the falling ash was like an expiring sigh’. Honestly if Mr Roper’s demise were not so tragic and traumatic, these not-so-subtle indicators would almost be darkly funny.

(As a last note, did anyone else notice the word ‘skrike’, uttered by Danny as he torments Ben? Apparently it’s a regional term, the official definition being ‘to cry out, scream or yell’. I’ve never heard it spoken and would love to know if it’s a Yorkshire-only word? Can any knowledgeable Readers help me out there?)


Matt’s Thoughts: Things are starting to get brutal now on all fronts! We have one nasty encounter in the form of Danny and Co tormenting Ben and Jennet. 

Which seems bad enough until the encounter at the end of the chapter between Crozier and Mr Roper, which was even harder to read.

However, despite all the miserable goings-on in the chapter, there’s so much to enjoy. First of all, I learned a new word, when Miss Wethers decides to go round to the Turner house to complain. She makes a comment about how she doesn’t care if they pack him off to a ‘borstal’. I’m rather curious – I’ve since looked the word up online to find out what it means – but is this still in common use in the UK? (If the word was ever used in Australia, it was before my time and no one says it now.)

I also got a little thrill from Tarr showing up at Miss Boston’s house. There’s something enjoyable about the whole interplay of who can see him and who can’t and how that looks. It also goes to show how tough he is, that he would venture that far into town.

Finally, Mr Roper. Of course it makes perfect sense that your family would be the guardian of a sacred object. (But it’s also fascinating, though, because unlike Miss Boston, there’s nothing particularly magical about him, is there? He’s just a quiet old gentlemen, carrying on the family tradition.) It does make me wonder also, whether there was a deeper layer to his friendship with Ben.

Even if Nathaniel hadn’t showed up and tried to take the guardian, Mr Roper had no children (unless I missed something?) and so the guardian would have had to be entrusted to someone. Did he see in Ben the potential to be the new keeper of the guardian? We’ll never know but it’s a strong likelihood.

Still, watching him hold his own against Crozier’s magic was awe-inspiring and he is a worthy addition to the great list of Worthy People Taken From This World Too Soon By Robin Jarvis’ Imagination.

As a final musical tribute to him, here are the Sea Interludes from the opera Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten:

Up Next Reminder | The Oaken Throne


Readers of Myth & Sacrifice, welcome! Today we herald the unfurling of one of our most beloved legends, for next month, we will be reading The Oaken Throne.

In this, the second book of the Deptford Histories, we roll back the ages and witness the bat-squirrel wars at their grim and terrible height. Into this maelstrom arrive the forlorn Lady Ysabelle, a squirrel maiden with an awful fate clutched in her small paws, and Vespertilio, a batling squire eager for glory but too young to enter the fray.

Together, this unlikely pair will embark upon a bleak and desperate quest to the land of Greenreach, finding fair and foul along the way. Through gorse and bramble will they flee, unto the wild dark wood and into the red maw of ancient, blood-soaked nightmare.

Take up your silver acorns and light your Hobb lanterns, and avail yourselves of the above first edition copy, or any of the following:

The 2002 Hodder Silver (full original illustrations)
The 2005 US edition by Chronicle Books with cover by Leonid Gore (without illustrations)
The 2007 Hodder reprint (sadly also without illustrations, but perhaps the easiest to come by as it may still be available new in some bookshops)

A Warlock in Whitby | Chapter 8


Warning: Contains Spoilers!

But perhaps it was more than that, for not once did the thought of forgiveness enter anyone’s mind – the destruction of the third guardian had already wrought an unpleasant change in the townsfolk.

Aufwader’s Thoughts:  Poor Ben! I suppose he was never going to get away with his plan to reveal Nathaniel to the world, but it’s just galling to watch him ruin things completely by accident. It’s also such a fright for us as readers to have Nathaniel be right there in the kitchen, slurping his coffee as if he wasn’t plotting in deeply melodramatic fashion to unleash an unfathomable evil from its age-old fetters only hours ago. After last chapter’s otherworldly scene, his oily nonchalance comes across as even more sinister. We suspected there was something nasty about this guy, but now we know the truth.

The reason that this is my third Chapter of Nameless Dread is mainly due to the dredger scene at the end, but on reread I really appreciated how skilfully written Ben’s encounter with Mr Roper is. In a few paragraphs we can infer that not only does he know and understand what Ben is talking about, but that he is in some way directly involved, and that he is trying to shield Ben from the danger that he now finds himself in, however vain an effort that may be. I suspected in Chapter 5 that Mr Roper might be a bit too nice for a Robin Jarvis book, and now we can only hope that he doesn’t meet a similar fate to the Gobtrots in The Alchymist’s Cat!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve read it before a million times, the scene where the men dredge up that giant scale is still wonderfully spine-tingling. My favourite part has to be at the very end, where they all agree that they did not just see that and quietly go home to think about what they definitely did not just see. This time around I noticed that one of the men was named Peter Knowles – I have to wonder if that might be a reference to Lucy Boston’s son Peter, who illustrated the Green Knowe books?


Matt’s Thoughts: SO MUCH TO LIKE in this chapter. First up, a bit of sly Jarvis humour with the cranky Vicar scene. But just as quickly, the smiles fade when we have the horrendous scene with Crozier in Miss Boston’s kitchen. (And speaking of Miss Boston – what’s happening to her? I’m still in suspense about what’s going on with her London subplot.)

While there have been occasions when Jennet hasn’t always believed Ben straight away, the idea that she is enthralled (still mega-creepy, BTW!) by Crozier is really nail-biting. It essentially means that bit by bit, Ben has been isolated away from everyone that could help him. (Which, of course, is all due to the diabolical plotting of Mr Jarvis.)

My son just turned eight a few days ago – trust me, eight years old is not very old. So my heart goes out to Ben having to wander around bearing the weight of a) an ancient curse that he didn’t lift, b) being the only one aware of a warlock being in town plus c) still able to see ghosts everywhere (even though that doesn’t feature much in this story so far). It’s not great.

Which is what makes it so sad when Mr Roper seems to dismiss Ben’s concerns. But then we realise, in the moving finale to that scene, where he says what looks very much like a final goodbye, that maybe there is more going on than we realise.

And then, finally, the bit with the dredger which is a nice bit of foreshadowing that just makes the whole thing even more exciting. Isn’t this book just a cracking read?

And my Mr Roper sea-music dedication today is by a famous German composer, who nonetheless visited Britain several times. On one of those occasions, he went up to tehHebrides and was gob-smacked by the awesome sight of Fingal’s Cave. He then had to write an overture about it, because it was so good. The composer was, of course, Felix Mendelssohn and the piece was the Hebrides (or Fingal’s Cave) Overture.

Hope you like it: