Pine by Francine Toon

Publisher: Black Swan Ireland
Publication Date:
Length: 325 pages
Gothic | Horror | Thriller

CW: n/a

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.



I picked this novel up last year after seeing all the praise it was getting. As I’m a lover of Gothic fiction myself, I knew that I just had to give it a chance! For me, whilst the novel had a strong start, by the end I was unsure of how I felt about it.

I thought Lauren was a very interesting choice of protagonist and also a very clever one at that. For some reason everything seems much creepier when children are involved. I thought Lauren was a very believable child character, she very much felt her 11 years which was great, as I find that children’s behaviour can be difficult to get right, especially in adult fiction. I liked that she was simultaneously dealing with the usual pre-teen struggles at school and concerned with her ‘cool’ image, but also dealing with strange, potentially, supernatural occurrences.

In addition to Lauren, there were a whole host of unnerving and troubled characters. It was very difficult to like Niall, you could understand why he behaved the way he did after his wife went missing (which made everyone suspicious of him) but at the same time it was difficult to find any redeeming features about him. I liked Kirsty and Billy, and how they tried to help Lauren where they could, even if Billy would only do this outside of school – which seemed time typical behaviour for a schoolboy. The teenage girls Diane and Ann-Marie were possibly my favourites in the novel. Although they were seen as the cool popular girls, they both cared a lot for Lauren and almost felt like they’re sisters.

At the beginning of the novel I was really drawn in by the mystery and how creepy the village, people and what Lauren was experiencing all were. I was really intrigued by who this mysterious woman was and the answers are so why no one could remember her. However, as the novel continued for me the unease I felt at the beginning started to wear off. I liked the fact that the story was wrapped up and we mostly had answers to the questions the novel raised but I was expecting more. There is a lot more I would like to say about the ending, but I want to avoid spoiling the book!

Overall, I can understand why this novel got all the praise that it received as Toon is clearly a talented writer and does know how to put her readers on edge. However, it just didn’t click for me by the time I reached the end.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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