Title: The Ghost Woods
Author: C.J. Cooke
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
First published: October 13th 2022
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 6th 2022
Pages: 416

“There’s a violence lurking in Lichen Hall, but not the one I thought. The one I perceive now lies hidden, coiled up like an asp in a basket of figs, waiting to strike.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***


I’ve been a fan of C.J. Cooke‘s atmospheric gothic thrillers ever since I read The Nesting back in 2020, so of course I couldn’t resist the invitation to read her newest story The Ghost Woods early. It’s such a perfect read for this time of the year as well! The premise itself sounded fantastic, and I have been looking forward to start this historical fiction slash gothic horror slash paranormal read. I have to say that The Ghost Woods definitely lived up to expectations for me! Highly atmospheric, dark, ominous and the perfect gothic vibe: if you are looking for your next creepy Halloween read, this story is perfect!

One of the things that I love of her books is just how well she is able to set the perfect creepy and ominous gothic atmosphere both through her descriptions and the setting itself. Lichen Hall is an excellent example of this: the house makes for the perfect backdrop, and its background and reference to the folklore add an instant creep factor. I really liked the 1950s-1960s time frame this story was set in, with the focus on single mothers, gender inequality and (LGBT) discrimination. The fact that not that long ago it was not only frowned upon to have a child out of wedlock, but women even lost their jobs as well as their reputation is a scary thought… The different characters represented different social issues, and they each gave the story more dept.

The Ghost Woods is one of those stories that is hard to put into a neat little genre box as well. True, it is historical fiction with the focus on single mothers and the challenges they face. But it is also a thriller with gothic horror vibes… And there is most definitely a paranormal element to it as well mixed with folklore and even witches. The different genres and elements are blended together perfectly, and the result is a story that will stay with you for a long time. The fungus element itself was fascinating, and especially how it was incorporated into the plot. It gave me Mexican Gothic vibes actually; a book I loved as well.

The story switches back and forth between two POVs: Pearl in 1965 and Mabel first in 1959 and then in the years leading up to 1965. There is some overlap and they are both set in Lichen Hall, so you will have to keep your wits with you and pay attention to keep the two apart. I liked how the plot was built though, and how you slowly learn more about what is actually going on at Lichen Hall. I did guess one of the major plot twists right very early on, but I personally wasn’t too bothered by that because the journey was well worth it on its own.

All in all The Ghost Woods turned out to be a well written and atmospheric blend of historical fiction, gothic horror and paranormal elements, and the gothic vibe is done splendidly. It’s a fantastic option if you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Halloween!

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