The Witch House
I am so excited to share my review for The Witch House by Ann Rawson!
A little bit about the book:
"Alice Hunter, grieving and troubled after a breakdown, stumbles on the body of her friend and trustee, Harry Rook. The police determine he has been ritually murdered and suspicion falls on the vulnerable Alice, who inherited the place known locally as The Witch House from her grandmother, late High Priestess of the local coven.
When the investigations turn up more evidence, and it all seems to point to Alice, even she begins to doubt herself.
Can she find the courage to confront the secrets and lies at the heart of her family and community to uncover the truth, prove her sanity, and clear herself of murder?"
Who doesn't love a story about witches in a small town? A family with a history of scandal, at the center of pagan rituals and witchy rumours. And then suddenly, MURDER!
I don't read murder mysteries often. Thrillers make me anxious, and I normally don't go for them. As a pretty anxious person to begin with, the last thing I need is my heart racing for the entirety of a book! But the cover for The Witch House was so gorgeous, and I have always loved stories about witches. I couldn't resist. In fact, I recreated the book cover. My first attempt to create something based on a book, you can check it out on my Instagram!
I even love stories where women are just rumored to be witches. Why? Because normally they're just women who tend to be outcasts, or women who march to the beat of their own drum.
It really amazes me how often society will vilify individuals, just for being different.
So how did reading this thriller go? I definitely had to take some deep breaths. The way the story unfolds and the tension builds, I knew I had to take a pause. This is very much something I personally had to do, because that anxious feeling I get reading thrillers can be draining. But don't let that fool you into thinking I didn't want to zoom through this book!
The story is so engaging. There isn't just the murder, but so many pieces of Alice's family history that you are hooked on, and just waiting to uncover. Her beloved grandmother, the High Priestess of the local coven sounds like a storm of a woman, but did anyone really know her? Alice didn't.
The book also deals a lot with mental health. This can be a very difficult subject to write about accurately. Especially, because I think so many mental health issues, ultimately, are a very personal experience. And though there might be some common threads, there will always be people who read something and think, that's not right at all, while others will read it and see a lot of their own experiences.
Though I am in no way an expert on mental health, I do try to stay informed. My mental health is something I have struggled with. I think the part of this story that is universal is the way it portrays the stigma around needing help to address mental health concerns. Alice has concerns but to share them would mean people look at her like she's crazy. The last thing you need during a murder investigation is for people to think you're crazy.
Another thing that the book touches on that I appreciated, is the way religions and belief systems are appropriated and commercialized. There is quite a bit of vandalism that starts up in Alice's small town, which immediately the locals attribute to the local coven and their Pagan beliefs. It's this warped idea of what the belief system is and a dramatization by those who don't truly understand it, but adopt it for aesthetic purposes. Though the story touches on this as it relates to Pagan beliefs, I couldn't help but be reminded of the ways Eastern religions are appropriated and commercialized. Becoming a watered down version of what they are at best, and completed misguided at worst.
Overall, I really enjoyed this read and would definitely recommend! I imagine how perfect it would be to dive into the small town murder mystery on a chilly fall evening. But why stop there! Here are more recommended book pairings!
1. A bottle of wine.
There are plenty of beverages that would be great with this story. A hot peppermint tea if you're feeling that sense of anxiety start to overwhelm you as you make your way through this thriller. Or a nice ginger tea, in case some of the more gruesome details give you a bit of nausea. Despite feeling both of those things, I really wanted wine, preferably one from Prophecy Wines. Yes, I pick wine bottles based on the label, but! These wines are delicious and if you pick up a bottle of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, you can pay a little homage to the High Priestess of the Cuckmere Coven. Or pick up the Red Blend, which has a gorgeous illustration of The Lovers, for when you sense a romance is brewing. You can use their site to find a carrier near you!
2. A Popcorn Maker - from Lekue
As you're reading this book you're going to want to turn to your partner, or roommate, or friend, or sibling, or anyone and everyone around you to tell them what is happening. Obviously, as you get to the more heart racing parts of the story, you'll need something to stress eat. Kind of like a big bag of popcorn at the movies! Since most of us are stuck at home, this is a great time to invest in a popcorn maker! Great for movie nights, and, filling someone in on all the action! I love this collapsible popcorn maker from Lekue. It's a staple in our home, we have gifted it multiple times, and we got one for my parents' house too, for when we visit. Great if you're living in an apartment and low on storage space, and it's dishwasher safe!
3. An Archaeology Kit
Alice isn't just looking for the real murderer, she's uncovering a family history, including some Roman treasure! So if you find yourself ready to go on a little treasure hunt of your own, grab a junior archaeologist kit! You can get one here! If you're in an area where the chances of finding treasure are skim to none, you can get your archaeologist fix with these fun little dino eggs! We got a ton of these for our dino themed "Roar-ing 20's" New Year's Eve party this past year and the kids had a blast! Enjoy digging away and uncovering a little dinosaur of your own! Note that it can get a little messy so be sure to put down some newspaper or a baking sheet for easy clean up! If you want a second opinion you can check out tons more reviews for The Witch House Blog Tour with Red Dog Press! Or grab a copy here if you're interested! Currently available for free on Kindle Unlimited!
Ann Rawson has long been addicted to story. As a child she longed to learn to read because she knew there was magic in those pages, the inky squiggles that turned into words and became images in her head – the stories that could transport her away from the everyday. As she grew older, she divined there was truth in books too. They were a glimpse into other minds. Her reading became the foundation of a deep and abiding interest in what makes people tick – and so she soon became hooked on crime fiction.
Age ten, she wrote to Malcolm Saville, author of the Lone Pine Series, enclosing her first short story. He wrote back and encouraged her to continue writing – and she is heartbroken that the letter is long lost. His book, Lone Pine Five, sparked a lifelong interest in archaeology, as it mentions the Mildenhall Treasure which makes an appearance in The Witch House.
A lapsed witch with enduring pagan tendencies, she lives on the south coast. She still thinks of herself as a Northerner, although she’s been in exile for many years. Almost every day she walks on the Downs or the white cliffs with her husband, plotting her next novel while he designs computer systems.
Ann’s debut novel, A Savage Art was published by Fahrenheit Press in 2016. She has published some short fiction, and in 2019 her memoir piece If… was shortlisted for the Fish Short Memoir Prize.
She is currently completing a memoir and working on her third novel.