First published back in 2011 (when the world seemed sane and understandable), Lindsey Barraclough’s debut novel Long Lankin remains probably one of my favourite horror novels of all time. Tightly paced and simplistic, but by no means does that take away from the plot – it’s a lean, mean, spine-chilling machine.
Set shortly after the Second World War, Long Lankin is the story of sisters Cora and Mimi, sent to stay with their reclusive elderly aunt in Bryers Guerdon a small countryside town steeped in history and an unsettling atmosphere. The two long for the hustle and bustle of London, growing to loathe the quiet darkness of the country, and when an ancient legend stirs in the town’s graveyard, fleeing Bryers Guerdon becomes a matter of life or death.
It’s hard to pin down what makes this book such a perfect ghost story. The plot, unhurried and pockmarked with moments of unease (and unseen whisperings), lurches in the final act into genuine terror. Long Lankin is one of the more underrated and unique ghosts I’ve read in my time too, a gangly, scarred and slithering monstrosity all limbs and unstoppable, animalistic determination. A sequel also exists, The Mark of Cain, exploring more of the Long Lankin mythology and bringing in elements of European witchcraft, although perhaps not quite as gut-wrenchingly horrifying, it’s a worthy companion. Long Lankin though, will always hold a special place in my heart. A dark place. Filled with dew-soaked cobwebs and whispering sighs.