George Mann’s Wychwood is billed as a cross between horror and crime fiction, with supernatural elements, which might lead one to believe that this would be closer to a work by Phil Rickman, or perhaps James Oswald. In fact, this is almost cosy in comparison, which could be due to its setting in the Cotswolds, which exert their own rose-filled influence over everything, in the same way that PG Wodehouse’s Honeysuckle Cottage turned a writer of lean muscular prose into something more winsome.
The newly divorced reporter Elspeth Reeves has returned to her childhood home, only to find that a murder has been committed in the woods behind her house, part of the eponymous Wychwood. She teams up with local policeman Peter Shaw, and together they discover the murders (plural, and rapidly increasing) are linked to the local legend of the Carrion King. I have one or two quibbles with the likelihood that any policeman would be allowed to take a friend with him to interview suspects, but fiction generally depends on the suspension of disbelief, so if you disregard the finer points of a police procedural, this keeps up the pace, and comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end. The supernatural element is vanishingly slight, the horror muted, and the overall effect is very Home Counties. A readable traditional cozy, no matter what the marketing would have you believe.