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!