Quick Take – Lorne Patterson’s Witch

One of the new publishers I briefly covered in my June 2012 round-up of new publishers was Dark Hall Press. I’ll save you the trouble of navigating to that post by telling you the key parts of what I said about Dark Hall: “Launched on Halloween, 2011, DHP debuted with the novel Witch by Lorne Patterson, and has so far announced two more books, including a new Ty Schwamberger title.”

Not longer after writing that, a review copy of Witch came my way. It’s a short novel, or perhaps novella, weighing in at less than 100 pages, narrated via two juxtaposed timelines. The first, set in 2013 Scotland, comes from the perspective of Detective Sergeant Jamie McFadden, who as the story opens is visiting a private psychiatric facility called Haven in order to interview Caroline Blair, the only surviving victim of a pedophile and killer who’s now also been murdered . The second takes place in 1591 Scotland and focuses on Margaret Berwick, a young woman wrongly accused of being a witch. It seems apparent from the first few pages that there will be a connection of some sort between Blair and Berwick.

The McFadden-based chapters focus on his investigation and some intriguing discoveries he makes about Haven and the nearby town, while Berwick’s chapters are primarily descriptions of her torture at the hands of her sadistic jailers, which is a little detailed a little excessively for my tastes, and her apparent conversation with a demon in the midst of some pain-induced hallucinations.

Anytime that an author elects to split their storyline (via multiple timelines or multiple primary perspectives), the potential downside is that one thread will resonate much more strongly with the reader. That’s exactly what happened with Witch, as I found the contemporary storyline much more engaging. The historical thread is well-written, but it seems apparent from the get-go what’s going to happen, and for the most part, what’s expected is exactly what happens.

Although Witch has its blemishes, none are too glaring, and there’s certainly potential flashed here as well. This is author Patterson’s first novel, and I hope we see more from him.

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