Monday, 19 September 2016

'The Second Crown'

Katherine Haynes' contribution to the Third G&S Book of Shadows recalls the classic BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas, rather than M.R. James' original story. We're in East Anglia, and the reference to a Saxon palace under the sea in 'A Warning to the Curious' provides the central idea. Haynes' protagonist, Laura, enjoys underwater archaeology with her lover, Jack. But when Laura becomes pregnant unexpectedly and decides to keep the child her relationship with Jack becomes problematic. Especially when he decides to go after a big, valuable find...

The clever twist here is one I won't give away, but it makes sense in the context of the original story. The second Saxon crown proves to have a guardian, and should be returned. This much anyone can infer. But how will the tale unfold? What happens is interesting, not least because it left me guessing to the very end. Laura's increasing distress is well-realised, as is Jack's selfish, cavalier attitude. But it's to a minor character that the final scene belongs in a nice evocation of the beauty and mystery of the coastline that inspired Monty so many years ago.

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