Title: Once Upon a Haunted Moor (Tyack and Frayne Book One)
Author: Harper Fox
Pages: 86 pp
Gideon Frayne is a Cornish police officer stationed in his tiny hometown of Dark. Dedicated to the protection of his friends and neighbors, he is also deeply in the closet. His last relationship ended badly because he could not bring himself to even hold hands with his long-time lover. Now, in the days leading up to Halloween, he finds himself heading the investigation into the disappearance of six year-old Lorna Kemp. When Lorna’s distraught mother accepts the help of Lee Tyack — a psychic recommended by the police from nearby Truro — Gideon isn’t just skeptical; he is also angry and embarrassed. Those feelings fade, though, as he gets to know Lee and realizes that he is not a con artist, at all, but a kind man with a true psychic gift. Unfortunately, the kidnapper is in their midst, watching the investigation, and when Lee’s visions reveal too much, he acts to stop Gideon and Lee once and for all ….
There is something to be said for a spare and minimalist cover. A misty image of a man walking along a fence in a barren, flat landscape … that is certainly evocative of both the Cornish countryside and the emotional landscape of one Gideon Frayne. The image pulled me in, and the story kept me there.
Fox has a real gift of description. I could practically feel the moor beneath my feet and the hot breath of the Beast on my neck. Right. The Beast of Bodmin Moor. Did I mention that? 🙂 The little touches of local color and culture just add to the story.
This was the one night in the year when the village defied its name. Better than Bonfire Night, better even than Christmas, the people of Dark liked their Halloween and pulled out all the stops for it. From high up on the moor, Gideon could see that almost every house had its pumpkin lantern. The streets were being threaded by torchlight as parents and older siblings steered toddlers through an orgy of sweeties and annoying their elderly neighbours. In the old manor house, the witches were reclaiming their Samhain night, setting out milk and honey for their ancestral dead, sealing each window with a holy-water star. Seal the gate. We have to seal the gate ….
Gideon and Lee are great characters individually, and together they make an even better team — in and out of the bedroom. Lee heals the hole in Gideon’s heart and life, while Gideon acts as a stabilizing influence, helping Lee though his confusing, painful visions.
Once Upon a Haunted Moor may be only eight-six pages, but there is a lot of story packed into it: heartbreak, true love, monsters (human and other) dread-inducing landscapes, terror, hope, and a (tentative) happily ever after. Personally, I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for Gideon and Lee.
Highly recommended to fans of Rhys Ford, KJ Charles, Jordan L Hawk, and Mary Calmes.