Researching a story on the “last witchcraft murder in England”, journalist Eric Braden finds himself in the village of Cauldron. More than a decade on, the unsolved mystery has cast a lingering shadow over the sleepy village. Before long, Braden gets caught up in a web of deceit, strange townsfolk and dark superstitions made flesh.
‘The Evil Thereof’ is another Jack Gerson mystery novel to be turned into an audiobook by Big Finish, alongside ‘The Fetch’. Published in 1991, ‘The Evil Thereof’ was Gerson’s penultimate novel and the first following his very successful ‘Death Squad’ trilogy. The Scottish novelist and screenwriter passed away in 2012 at the age of 83.
As narrator, the microphone is taken up by Barnaby Edwards for this release. As well as being a seasoned Dalek operator, Edwards is a frequent writer, director and actor for Big Finish. The story’s setting inevitably demands a convincing and varied set of West Midlands accents that Edwards pulls off wonderfully. Accents are an important element of the story as Gerson often describes each character’s brogue to build tension. The reader is automatically suspicious of anyone making an effort to hide their accent. Edwards and director Helen Goldwyn clearly understood this and have worked hard to render the voices properly.
Wicker Fuzz Peaks
The story’s narration is split up into multiple second and third-hand accounts at times. The bulk of the backstory, establishing the events of the original murder, is told by other people. One particularly long section of the book is told from the perspective of the only surviving office from the case. He, in turn, is telling us the story of Jack Harkness (I know), the lead investigator caught off guard by the bizarre village. This can’t help but give it a ‘Wicker Man’ vibe. But there are also definite hints of ‘Twin Peaks’ or even ‘Hot Fuzz’ played straight.
Unlike ‘The Fetch’, Gerson has taken on a much more sardonic tone in his embittered protagonist. This story has some surprisingly witty prose for a novel that takes on such a dark tone and subject matter. But it does a lot to establish character and the wry asides ebb away as the plot progresses. Shifting narrators can occasionally get confusing, but for the most part, it’s easy to follow despite the dense mystery plot. The book almost seems to read your mind, nixing any possible solution the moment you think of it. It’s a masterpiece of misdirecting your reader and a brilliant experience for it.
Though I criticised the lack of musical cues in the previous release, they would have been distracting here. Whereas Mathieson of ‘The Fetch’ had weird things intrude on his everyday life, Braden is somewhere totally new. The way Braden observes his unfamiliar surroundings keeps the imagination too busy to notice the lack of musical ambience.
This story demands mental investment, clocking in just shy of 12 hours and filling every second with intrigue. Unlike ‘The Fetch’, which had to a lot of preambles to establish backstory, this tale delves in right away. That said, it takes longer for Gerson’s signature supernatural elements to show up. But this deepens the mystery very effectively. While the resolution is less of a twist than you might expect, a few red herrings keep things interesting.
As with our previous Jack Gerson review, we’ve scored Gerson’s story and Big Finish’s production separately. So the Blogtor Rating goeth thusly:
Story – 8/10
Narration and Sound – 10/10
Tasked by his news editor to come up with a sensational article about old, unsolved murders, reporter Eric Braden finds himself in rural Warwickshire, investigating the horrific death of a local lothario, whose body was surrounded by pagan symbols.
The detective from the original investigation is now a broken man and reluctant to tell his story but there are others who demand answers, even all these years later. As Braden delves deeper, encountering hostility and denial at every step, he soon realises that village life is not as innocuous as the locals would have him believe and that something unimaginably dark still resides here, waiting to be released…
(Please note this is a significantly sized download-file – be aware of any data-charges your network may incur, and that you will need twice the filestore available on your computer or device to unzip the file)
Written By: Jack Gerson
Directed By: Helen Goldwyn
Read by Barnaby Edwards