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Book Review – Pine by Francine Toon #Scotland #Thriller #Gothic #Haunting

Book Review – Pine by Francine Toon #Scotland #Thriller #Gothic #Haunting

336 Pages. Published January 23rd 2020.

“The images of death are involuntary and relentless: crushed snail shells, veins in meat, vampire teeth, soil filling a mouth.”

pine by francine toon

Set in the secluded Scottish Highlands in a small village surrounded by forest. A father and daughter try to piece together their lives after a wife and mother disappears without a trace. 

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They are driving home from the search party when they see her.

The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men. Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In spare, haunting prose, Francine Toon creates an unshakeable atmosphere of desolation and dread. In a place that feels like the end of the world, she unites the gloom of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.


My Review

Pine is a book I was really looking forward to for some reason.

It was really, really hyped and so many people were talking about it, especially toward the back end of 2020. I picked it up as a 99p kindle deal and was really excited to finally get around to reading it.

Hype is usually a sign of an underwhelming book in my experience, everything about this book pulled me in though. I love the cover and the blurb promised me something eerie, supernatural and thrilling.

Unfortunately it completely missed the mark for me. The book failed to thrill me, failed to creep me out and overall failed to really entertain me.

The story is set in the Scottish Highlands (which I loved). The descriptions of the little town were quite wonderful, a creepy forest with lots of pine trees with the tragic history of a woman who went missing without a trace 10 years prior.

In terms of writing I really can’t criticise. It felt well written and the author really managed to paint a picture of an isolated, “haunted” village with a real sense of community.

There were some moments where it felt like it was building up to something but then it never did, it was very frustrating and after the halfway point it became a matter of pride to just finish it. I had completely lost interest.

In terms of characters, I can’t say that I really found myself attached or even relating with any of them.

The story follows Niall, a struggling, alcoholic father and his 10 year old daughter, Lauren. Lauren’s mother disappeared when she was too young to remember her and the disappearance has always been subject to the village gossip. Niall and Lauren are always being talked about and Lauren is even bullied by some girls at school. It was said that before Christine (the mother) disappeared that she was a witch, that she was strange.

The story touches on this with Lauren, learning to read her mother’s old tarot cards but it was all very vague and none of it really made much sense to me.

Once the scene is set and the reader is supposed to be feeling sufficiently “chilled”, one of Laurens friends, Anne-Marie disappears. The community pull together to search for her and secrets from 10 years ago are discovered during the search.

Overall, I found the book quite dull,  it was difficult to follow at times and when it all wrapped up at the end it felt like there were a lot of plot holes. When the “bad guy” is revealed at the end, nothing is done to explain his motives. It all just felt a bit pointless and left me wondering why I had even bothered to read it.

I really don’t know if I missed something somewhere along the way and if anyone else has read this and enjoyed it then please do feel free to leave a comment if there is any huge plot point that I have somehow glossed over.

This book does get a lot of 5 star reviews and so it is very possible that it was just not my cup of tea. If you decide to read it or if you already have then let me know what you think!


“The springy moss underfoot and the layers of pine needles soak up any sound.”

5 thoughts on “Book Review – Pine by Francine Toon #Scotland #Thriller #Gothic #Haunting

  1. Good review, and I agree completely. I bought the paperback.The writing is excellent, but there’s no story really. It builds and builds and builds, but then the end is revealed in a gushed out way, but there’s no explanation of the motives. I also got confused with the characters, Anne-Marie, Kirsty, Diane, Catriona, they were all interchangeable for me. 2 out of 5 for me too. I think the author could go on to write some cracking books, but this wasn’t one of them.

    1. I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one to think this. I genuinely thought I had missed something because the reveal and the ending didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. You’re right that the writing is beautiful and very atmospheric. It could have been so much more than it was!

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