Warning: Contains Spoilers!
The years peeled away and before its luminous eyes the fish demon – last of the savage Mallykin race – remembered it all.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: I think this is one of the most iconic openings to any Robin Jarvis novel. It takes what we saw in The Whitby Witches and, in a few short pages, distils it to its most grisly, most atmospheric, and most ominous essence.
First of all, we’ve got the fish demon; last of the Mallykin race and without doubt one of Mr Jarvis’ most infamous supernatural beasties. The Mallykin, as it has come to be known, graces the cover of the Hodder Silver edition in gloriously squamous detail, and was also front and centre on this promotional poster. It would have been on the cover of the first edition too, but, rumour has it, Robin’s publishers at the time thought it too ghastly, even for him. It was duly shunted to the back in favour of Nelda, but it got its own back when Mr Jarvis made it into a model and brought it on tour to terrify his young readers.
In most of Mr Jarvis’ work there are two kinds of evil: that which is honest in its malevolence, and that which is not. Nathaniel Crozier is the second kind, and a very fine example he is too. ‘Down-at-heel history professor’ is not exactly a look which inspires mortal dread unless one is an under-performing student, but from the second that train pulls into the little Whitby station, we just know it’s all downhill from here.
Matt’s Thoughts: Apologies if I said this in an earlier post and can’t remember it, but I can’t actually remember what happens in this book. I have some vague memories of things from the last two Whitby books, but as to which book those come from, I just can’t remember.
This is a whole interesting side-tangent, but I’m wondering if the reason I can’t remember these books so well is simply the large chunk of life that intervened. To explain: I was a young teenager when the Deptford Mice was out and I pretty much read The Whitby Witches and The Alchymist’s Cat around the time they were written.
However, as I got into my later teens (and then went to university), I had less time for reading. (I was also notorious for getting lots of new books and never finishing them either, which didn’t help.) So I would buy every Jarvis book that I saw for sale, but often never got around to reading them.
So even though I owned the original edition, it wasn’t until a decade or so later that I actually got around to reading A Warlock in Whitby. And I think I read it in a rush one particular Easter holidays. So this does make me wonder, if I had read it when I was younger, would it have burned its way onto my brain more strongly? Is there something powerful about the books we love as a kid that resonate more strongly than the things we read as adults?
I don’t know, but I feel like there’s some truth in that, don’t you think?
Anyway, thus endeth the tangent. On to Whitby! I really like the low-key nature of the opening. An ugly thing crawls out of the ground in the prologue and a creepy bearded man arrives on a train. Because this is Jarvis, neither of these characters have made a huge splash in the town (and we’re still not sure how their subplots will intertwine) but the potential for them to be pretty freaking evil is right there.
Also, the scene where Crozier gives the enchanted stare to Emma Hitchin, the legal secretary, is somewhat of a new thing. It introduces (in a fairly careful way, given the possible age of the readers) a theme of lechery that also makes this book more icky. This then gets compounded when the scene with the Gregsons plays out.
There are echoes of Dracula in the requirement for an invitation, but Crozier is something else entirely. I don’t know about you, but when he looks out the window and spots Alice Boston, it makes me worried.