Alison Littlewood burst into the mainstream when her debut novel, A Cold Season, was selected as part of Richard and Judy’s 2012 Book Club and found itself in supermarket aisles and bookshop window displays. It was a supremely paced and engrossing book with an exemplary sense of atmosphere and location, but, Path of Needles is even better.
The book tells the story story of two women – Cate, a local police constable with ambitions to step-up to detective, and Alice, a university lecturer specialising in fairy stories and folk tales, who team up when someone starts murdering young women and leaving them posed in reference to scenes from obscure versions of traditional stories. Path of Needles retains the elements of her first novel that were so successful, the crisp prose and perfect pacing chief among them, but also improves on the elements of her previous novel that were a little jarring such as the decision making of the main characters which is more logical and believable here. The antagonist is less showy and altogether more multi-layered and complex in his actions and motivations than A Cold Season’s antagonist, Remick.
Littlewood sows the seeds of the murder mystery like Hansel and Gretel and their trail of breadcrumbs, allowing the reader to follow the path through the book to its tense and satisfying conclusion. Red herrings are dropped into the mix to enhance the mystery, but there are no cheats here or wild deductions by characters that could spoil the believability and pull the reader out of the narrative.
Alison Littlewood was no overnight success; she has a significant body of small-press work, notably her Spectral Press chapbook The Eyes of Water and numerous appearances in the UK’s dark fiction magazine Black Static. The novel length plays to her strengths, particularly in her depiction of setting and ability to evoke the senses, and her third novel is awaited with impatient eagerness. Highly recommended.
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