I knew I would enjoy Maria Alexander‘s modern gothic tale, Mr. Wicker before I even opened its cover.

The description alone excited me: a story about a mysterious figure who steals the more traumatic memories of children, leaving them to grow up confused and always feeling as if they’ve forgotten something. Alicia is one of those grown up children and, when she attempts suicide, she discovers her memory is being stored in Mr. Wicker’s library.

Mr. Wicker Cover Despite its modern setting, Mr. Wicker is a gothic tale in the old sense of the word; secrets, hidden libraries, crows, candles, haunted pasts and uncertain futures, sprinkled with dark shadows and hooded figures. Well, one hooded figure, but he’s quite prominent.

Ever since I read my first Sheridan Le Fanu and Edgar Allen Poe stories as a moody teenager, I’ve been hooked on the romance of the traditional gothic story. It’s exciting to read one that brings it up-to-date without resorting to vampires or werewolves or any other well-worn monsters.

Mr. Wicker feels new and exciting, yet comfortably familiar.

It seems unlikely that a story could remain so fast-paced in one setting, but the action, if anything, picks up as she meets all kinds of unsavoury characters inside the hospital and deals with personal tragedy. Reality is in constant conflict with unreality; Mr Wicker doesn’t exist in our world but the children in the hospital all know his name.

Alicia must choose between her feelings for Dr. Farron and Mr. Wicker’s world of darkness. Another issue is whether Dr. Farron is interested in her or simply sees her as his key to finding the spectre in the library.

The characters are likeable too. Alicia isn’t a helpless heroine, and the two men vying for her attention are intriguing in their different ways. However, she is the only one who can decide what her future will be and whether to save herself or not.

Anyone looking to mix old ideas with new, or lose themselves in a character-driven story laced in gothic cloth, will agree that this is a real page-turner and one that’s hard to put down. It also plays on the sensation of having forgotten something important.

Could this be for a sinister reason perhaps? Meet me in the spooky library to find out!

Mr. Wicker is published by Raw Dog Screaming Press.

Madeleine Swann

Madeleine Swann

Visit her website at madeleineswann.com.
Madeleine Swann
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