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Review: The May Queen Murders

— feeling bloody
The May Queen Murders - Sarah Jude

This is one of the most bizarre books I have read in a long time. It's disturbing and has some very uncomfortable gory bits....and I kind of totally loved it.


Usually I have a weird thing about reading books with a character that has my own name in it, doesn't bother me if it's a first person view point, but for some reason I don't like it when it's a third person view point. In this case though, the book was so good the same name thing didn't bother me. Even though said with the same name as me was a giant bitch. And died. Horribly.


The story is set in a secluded farming community, The Glen, who don’t embrace modern technology. Almost like Amish but not quite as religious. They have farms and animals and sell things at local farmers markets. The high school aged kids go to the local public high school. The Glen kids stick together, as they live and dress differently school is pretty tough for them.


Our MC, Ivy, has been BFF with her cousin Heather for their whole lives. They’re practically as close as sisters. Only lately, Heather has been acting differently, sneaking about and asking Ivy to cover for her. Ivy is probably one of the dullest, meekest most pathetic main characters I have come across in a long time. While she was sad that her cousin seemed to be growing up faster than she was – Heather was making friends with the normal town kids and Ivy couldn’t get her head around that. The town kids did something really horrible to one of the Glen girls and it’s left a deep mark on the family and the Glen kids. Well, most of them. Ivy is almost obsessed with Heather.


Everything she thinks or does has something relating to what would Heather think, why is Heather ignoring me and not telling me things anymore? Heather has secrets and Ivy is devastated she’s not being included anymore. Understandable, it sucks when you realise someone you’ve been close to all your life is more or less outgrowing you and doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Been there. It’s a hollow feeling and it’s horrible. But as I said, Ivy’s so obsessed with Heather and figuring out her secrets it goes beyond the concern of a cousin/friend/sister to almost stalkerish behaviour.


And while this is going on, several animals have been found mutilated. Ivy’s dad is the local vet, and she helps out in his practice. It’s described in detail and is very disturbing. Usually this kind of unnecessary animal violence turns me off completely. The narrative, even though meek and dull Ivy and while slightly nauseating, was compelling enough to want to know what happened. There is also a local legend of a man who lives in the woods and does terrible things. A teen girl was murdered at a May Day Celebration many years ago and this creepy wood guy was supposedly the killer sparked into a ghastly legend. He’s never been caught which sparks all sorts of scary rumours.


It’s a lot of inner turmoil for Ivy, who loves animals. Along with figuring out what’s going on with her cousin, and the worry that the cousin is sneaking off with the boy she likes who has recently started talking more to Ivy and showed signs of liking her. Ivy is disjointed and confused. With the increased fear in the community with the scary wood man rumours and animal deaths getting worse and more violent, it’s incredibly disturbing.


And weirdly compelling. Then the council people decide – let’s bring back May Day and have a local Glen girl crowned as the Queen and cheer people up a bit. Which works for a bit. Nasty things keep happening. Ivy’s relationship with Heather hits rock bottom. Though things get better with the boy she likes, Rook. It’s not insta-lovey, so plus points for that. It’s a slow build relationship that works really well when it’s filtered into the narrative.


The May Day Celebration comes and it’s pretty reminiscent (at least for me) of the May Day ceremony in the original version of “The Wicker Man”. Lots of dancing and bizarre animal customs. We know from the blurb of the book something bad is going to happen to Heather, and as I was reading, all I could think was please don’t be like "The Wicker Man", the girl’s a bitch, but don’t have her end up like the guy in “The Wicker Man did.”


After Heather goes missing, Ivy falls apart. The second half of the novel is basically Ivy and the community figuring out what happened to Heather and who’s responsible. It’s very twisty and impossible to predict, Heather’s hidden secrets come to light, and there are nothing like I imagined they would be. The narrative gets creepier and the imagery gets more and more dark and disturbing. It’s completely unpredictable which I liked, just when you think everything has been figured out – more twists and turns.


This book would make a fantastic horror movie. While it is rather unnerving and as I have mentioned, disturbing and gory, it’s very good. I loved it.