WITCHES OF LYCHFORD by PAUL CORNELL
PB, 144 pages, Tor
“As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: ‘When shall we three meet again?’
There was a pause.
Finally another voice said in far more ordinary tones: ‘Well I can do next Tuesday.’”
Wyrd Sisters – Terry Pratchett
There is a hint of the legendary Granny Weatherwax about Judith Mawson, self-appointed leader of the witches of Lychford. Perhaps it’s her air of suffering neither fools not evil gladly. You can almost hear the eye-rolling as she teams up with Autumn, fairy-touched proprietor of the village’s only magic shop, and the new local vicar Lizzy, who is having a crisis of her own faith. They are called together to fight the building of a new local supermarket. Lychford, it turns out, is one of those places, a linchpin built to keep evil magic out of the world, the keystone which, if broken, will bring down the dam and let all kinds of supernatural horrors flood in. The barriers are crumbling, the new supermarket will destroy them for good, and behind the capitalist forces of Sovo, a darker force is at work…
Although not as bleak as Paul Cornell’s Shadow Police novels (well worth checking out of you haven’t already, and reviewed here), there is something delightfully creepy and sinister about Witches of Lychford, and about the village of Lychford itself. The town is the kind of Midsomer Murders picture-postcard perfect, with that dark underbelly that I suspect most villages have hidden away somewhere, and with the kinds of long-standing simmering feuds that threaten to spill over into real violence when the stakes are high enough.
Paul Cornell clearly loves and understands the English countryside, and this is an affectionate portrait of a town driven by dark powers to the brink of civil war, and the unlikely trio of women who band together to try and save it.