Blood Harvest

by Sharon Bolton

Paperback, 2011




Minotaur Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, 432 pages


There are clues that something isn't quite right in Heptonclough, including the mysterious accidental deaths of three toddlers over the last ten years. It is not until Tom's siblings, two-year-old Milly and five-year-old Joe, go missing in turn that the little village's evil secret turns the Fletchers' dreams into a nightmare.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
In Blood Harvest a new vicar arrives in the small Lancashire village of Heptonclough to reopen the closed church. He meets the American family who built an enormous house right in the middle of the village and who are not liked by the traditional villagers. There's something wrong with the town and the family is being menaced, with the focus of the malevolence being the three Fletcher children.

This is a well-written and very suspenseful book, which reminded me of Simon Beckett's or even Ruth Rendell's mysteries. The village, set on the wild moors, is full of atmosphere and foreboding. There are village traditions that appear brutal and bizarre to outsiders. The new vicar is an interesting man, as are the three children and a psychiatrist who also plays a large part in the story. The parents, especially the father, are less well realized and strangely unconcerned at the menace directed at their own children, but this is a quibble--thsi is a suspenseful and eerie tale.
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LibraryThing member drneutron
A darned fine tale, Blood Harvest is part thriller, part gothic horror. I loved the setting and the characters, and especially the ending. It certainly kept me up to finish the last 100 pages or so, even though I had to get up early the next day!
LibraryThing member lchav52
The Fletcher family has built a new house on property once belonging to the old church in the little town of Heptonclough. Their three children, Tom, Joe, and little MiIllie play in the old churchyard and amongst the gravestones that surround their home. Soon, they become aware of a girl - or is she - watching ...

Harry is the new vicar, appointed to reopen the Heptonclough church after a ten years' cessation of services. A terrible accident, a small girl falling to her death from the church gallery, had closed it. As Harry begins to order things and meet his congregation, he bcomes convinced that something is 'not right' about the church; rather than peaceful and comforting, the church exudes pain and disquiet.

And so Ms. Bolton brings us into Heptonclough, a village in the Lancashire moors, where they honor their dead with odd rituals, where whispers from around corners warn of ill-bespoken dangers. Bolton's writing creates a foreboding atmosphere of impending peril that grows sharply into terror at the book's climax. In a previous novel, SACRIFICE, Ms. Bolton demonstrated great ability to craft a story that captures and holds the reader; here, she has shown her great growth in that ability. One can only eagerly await her next offering.
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LibraryThing member Darcia
This thriller will have you on edge from the first sentence to the very last. Set in a small English village, Blood Harvest is filled with a cast of characters you won't soon forget. A new family has come to town and built a home beside an old abandoned church. Soon afterward, a new vicar is appointed to re-open that church, which had been closed years before for reasons that remained shrouded in mystery.

These two events are at the forefront of a relentless plot that should keep any reader turning pages. The plot is fast-paced and full of surprises, all leading to a jaw-dropping conclusion.

** I received this book as an Advance Readers' Edition for review. **
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LibraryThing member bsquaredinoz
The Fletcher family have moved into the (thankfully fictional) village of Heptonclough in rural England. There’s a new reverend in town too. Creepy ancient traditions kept alive by the villagers provide an overall air of gloominess and when something of a trend towards small girls going missing becomes evident, things start to turn seriously scary.

At times BLOOD HARVEST had me enthralled but in the end it just missed ticking most of the “things I like in my crime fiction” boxes. Ultimately it went a bit too far.

As a die-hard city girl I’m fairly easily persuaded that rural life anywhere is like an episode of Midsomer Murders, with evil-doers aplenty and an overall “people who live in the country are all barking mad” sensibility but this book stretched the bounds of credibility on this score even for me. It relied a bit too heavily on multiple clichés including haunted churches, bad weather and an all-powerful Lord-of-the-Manor type, so that by about the three-quarter mark I was eye-rolling more often than reaching for the comfort blanket.

The character development was more successful however with the central cast all being quite credible and some, including the Fletcher children, delightfully understated. These days it is not unreasonable to expect any religious characters in a crime novel to be somewhat suspect but as the new reverend responsible for re-opening the local church Harry Laycock is devoid of suspicious behaviour and his struggles with the village atmosphere are well-depicted and within the bounds of believability. Where the novel fell down a bit for me though was with regard to his love life. Evi is a psychologist who is treating one of Harry’s parishioners and their never-quite-on relationship just doesn’t ring true. I didn’t object to the inclusion of a romantic element but its tortured progress read more like something from a teenage romance novel which was quite out of keeping with the rest of the story.

The plot had lots to admire but again fell short of hitting the mark for me. At nearly 550 pages the book is a long one and it did drag in places as very convoluted relationships between the present and the past were explained and other unnecessary exposition filled up space. At other times though it does rip along and the gothic sensibility did draw me in. Which of the Fletcher children is at risk? Are they seeing a ghost? If not, who or what is disturbing them? And which of the creepy villagers is not who they appear to be? These questions and more kept me reading late into the night.

In the end I suppose BLOOD HARVEST is not a bad novel though it is not as good as Bolton’s earlier two works (SACRIFICE and AWAKENING both of which I loved) and it just seems to have taken one step too far on several levels. That said, it is atmospheric and creepy: maybe one for fans of gothic horror rather than ‘straight’ crime.
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LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
Given the title, this book was not at all what I expected. I went into it expecting a fairly straight horror novel filled with dastardly deeds of blood sacrifice. What I got was a Ruth Rendell style psychological thriller - well written, subtle, tightly plotted, atmospheric, and scary.

The village of Heptonclough is one of those places that sits outside of time. Located in the Pennine moors near Lancashire, the town surrounds the old church, the new church, and a graveyard (complete with underground crypt). Straddling the line between the new and old church (and the new and old world) is a house built by the village's newest residents, the Fletchers, and their three children - and so the fun begins.

This village takes its traditions seriously, particularly those centered around the harvest. There is a harvest festival with all kinds of strange customs (and potential misdeeds), the annual slaughter (where blood literally runs in the streets), and the making of 'bone people' to be destroyed in the annual bonfire. Throughout it all the Fletcher children feel they are being watched and the long-buried secrets of Heptonclough are (in some cases literally) uncovered.

This was a wonderfully creepy read. Highly recommended for fans of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.
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LibraryThing member atheist_goat
This book takes great advantage of the fact that British pagan rituals are creepy as anything (see: Susan Cooper and the original Wicker Man), and that little villages that still practice these rituals are extra-creepy. Bolton uses this setting for a mystery / gothic thriller that reminded me of Andrew Taylor's The Four Last Things, which is high praise.

I realized immediately that this book was not something I should be reading at night alone in the house, and realized at the same time that I wasn't going to be able to put it down. I stayed up past midnight to finish it, and am glad I did - the resolution, while horrible, explains away the supernatural aspect that would really have disturbed my sleep. I figured out the culprit fairly early, but that didn't take away from the suspense, as it's mainly centered around "why" and "what the heck is going on" rather than "who".

I really liked this, and will be checking out Bolton's earlier books.… (more)
LibraryThing member psychdoc66
I very much enjoyed this book and have just ordered the author's first two books! A very spooky and gripping story with a host of interesting characters. I thought I had worked out who was responsible for the deaths,however, the ending was not only fascinating but surprising!
LibraryThing member delphimo
I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery, and had a difficult time to stop reading and attend to daily business. The story, set in the moors of England presents a chilling setting, along with the old church and the cemetery. The Fletcher family seems to be the target of a madperson that is after each of the three young children. A new rector for the church becomes involved in finding this mad killer. The characters are remarkable: the Fletcher children, Harry-the rector, Evi, and various townspeople. The writing seems like Elizabeth George, but told in a childish tone. I would definitely read SJ Bolton again.… (more)
LibraryThing member PirateJenny
An Early Reviewers win.

This is easily one of the best books I've read in ages. I had a very hard time putting it down. It's got everything a good gothic horror story should have: creepy atmosphere, a strange ghostlike creature, an old church, someone in trouble, even English moors!

The Fletchers have moved into the tiny village of Heptonclough. It wasn't exactly easy, as the town's "ruling" family, the Renshaws, didn't want them moving in at all, let alone building a new house on the moors near the churches (one a medieval ruin, the other "new"--Victorian-era).

The Fletchers' two boys, Tom and Joe, take to playing in the church and the graveyard as it's been abandoned for quite some time. But not long after the Fletchers move in, a new vicar is installed in the church. He likes the boys and takes an interest in their welfare and that of their sister, Millie. Which is a good thing because he starts to hear that Heptonclough isn't a safe place for little girls.

Add to this a young woman who believes that her daughter who died in a fire a number of years ago is still alive and living on the moors (and the psychiatrist trying to help her), disembodied voices, strange medieval (or older) rituals that take place in the town, and a strange creature only seen by the Fletcher children, and you've got one creepy story.
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LibraryThing member MmeRose
S J Bolton’s Blood Harvest is a chilling, Gothic thriller that will keep you reading long into the night…if you dare!
She intertwines the stories of a new family in an insular town, a psychiatrist drawn to the town by a patient, and a newly appointed minister, reopening the church that was closed after a child’s death, with old English pagan customs and a spooky voice in the graveyard that imitates voices of the living. Very young female children have died in ways no one connects – until a storm washes out the grave of one girl and the coffin breaks open to expose the remains of three.
The characters are well drawn and the action keeps moving to the chilling conclusion. I recommend this book
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LibraryThing member karen_o
For descriptions of this book, please see the two reviews preceding mine. For myself I will simply say that if you are a fan of mystery, suspense, the English village mystery with a little Gothic horror thrown in for spice, then this is the book for you! Author Bolton definitely knows how to ramp up the tension and she has perfected that ability in this, her third book. At times I found it so suspensful that i had to set it aside and wander the house for a few minutes to get my heart rate back to normal!

But I couldn't stay away too long... I had to know what was next, what was going to happen, and I wasn't disappointed. The book built to a final very satisfying conclusion with all threads finished and tied up.

An absolute page turner; I can't recommend it highly enough!
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LibraryThing member martitia
This novel is a creepy suspense story set in an English village with a strong sense of place. There are crumbling ruins, pagen harvest rituals, a wild moor and a mysterious presence that may or may not be human. The village also has the unfortunate history of little girls dying or disappearing. Coming into this village, a wholesome family with a little girl builds a new house on land next to church graveyard. Likewise a new rector comes to reopen the church that had been closed. Their arrival sets off a series of events that will keep your turning the pages.… (more)
LibraryThing member lyzadanger
You know what the best thing about this book is?

The editors and publishers left it alone. Instead of a neutered, American English variant (ahem, Harry Potter, ugh), the bucolic Britishness of Blood Harvest's weird (fictional) town of Heptonclough, Lancashire, has been left intact, and it is that very slight cultural shift that makes S.J. Bolton's novel stand out in a crowded genre of quasi-paranormal suspense stories.

Pair that with the near-brilliant portrayal of young, Geordie vicar Harry Laycock and you've got a combination that is just skewed enough to make the compelling-but-not-earthshattering plot feel memorable. Laycock is a man of the cloth, but he's a modern one: He pines after smarty-pants psychiatrist Evi Oliver, whose own character is appealingly flawed. Oliver can only walk with a cane and suffers chronic nerve pain that pushes her nearly to madness at times.

Heptonclough's assortment of inbreds and recluses is reminiscent of the town in Simon Pegg's movie "Hot Fuzz." There's something endearingly dark and twisted about certain British farm towns. Bolton maximizes on that. Her story involves the mysterious disappearances of a suspiciously high number of very small girls from Heptonclough. A grieving young mother of one of these children seems a bit too aggrieved; the town's oligarchy seems a bit too powerful and hush-hush; the local seasonal traditions uncomfortably pagan and violent. Oh, and the family at the center of this just built a large, slightly offensive house in the middle of the town's medieval graveyard. Yeah.

Romping and gripping for most of its course, Bolton's novel suffers from a couple of plot turns that stretch one's credulity and an absolutely dreadful ending. Does this mean this will be a series? I admit, I'd read more.
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LibraryThing member norinrad10
This is one creepy book. It's got all your ingredients of a classic English Gothic. Family just moved into the neighborhood? Check? Old church with forgotten history? Crazy mother who lost her young child? check. Creepy village elder? check. It's all here and it all works. Been a long time since I read a good old fashion ghost story. This one will keep you up later at night then planed.… (more)
LibraryThing member KATPOR
I was very excited when I first started reading Blood Harvest as I thought I'd found a new author...and I still may have. I felt the Epilouge at the end was unneccesary and the split between Harry and Evi was irritating. Let me say right off I did not expect a happy ending. A happy ending to a book like this would be ridiculous, but when an author encourages you, especially an author this good, to care about the characters it is beyond irritating when the author dismisses the reader's care.… (more)
LibraryThing member tina1969

A Time To Be Born - Twelve-year-old Tom and his family have just moved to a small town perched on the crest of the moor. But troubles begin when Tom sees a mysterious child lurking around the nearby churchyard. A Time To Die - Psychiatrist Evi is trying to treat a young woman haunted by the disappearance of her little girl. A devastating fire burned down their home, but even two years on she is convinced her daughter survived. A Time To Kill - Harry is the town's new vicar, quickly befriended by the locals. But unusual events around the church suggest he isn't entirely welcome, and that this odd little town harbours a terrifying secret.

Wow, what a great book. I really couldn’t put this book down. When I first started to read this book I thought it was going to be a ghost story. As the story progressed I thought it was very slightly similar to The Wicker Man. My reason being that the village is steeped in old traditions and everybody seemed to have lost a young daughter. Then as the story progressed further it changed and became a crime story. I have added this to my Halloween reads because the main bulk of the story is through the months on September and October, but also because it was really scary. So OK the girl in the graveyard may not have been a ghost after all, but it is scary to think how human beings can treat each other. Is there a happy ending, well maybe for some. What the author did do was to finish each chapter on a cliff hanger so I had to keep reading to see what was going to happen next. I would highly recommend this read.
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LibraryThing member LeHack
This is part ghost story, part thriller. The Fletcher's have built a new house on land purchased from the church in Heptonclough. Their house is next to the ancient Abbey ruins and the graveyard. The community is somewhat closed to newcomers, but they are beginning to make friends in the community. Their two sons, Tom and Joe, are having a harder time in the new house. They encounter a group of bullies in the churchyard, but are rescued by the new vicar.

The boys hear a small girl's voice calling to them. The vicar has also noticed some voices and strange sounds in the church, especially when he is alone. Is this the ghost of Lucy Pickup who died in a fire a few years ago? Or someone trying to scare the children?

During a community event around the Day of the Dead, also known as All Soul's Day, Millie Fletcher, the young sister of Joe and Tom, goes missing. What is happening to the children in Heptonclough?

The story moves along with clues along the way to the climax. We always hope we are clever enough to figure it out. There is love interest for the new vicar, but will it work out? The author has placed the story in a fictitious village on the moors in Yorkshire.

Four stars. I would definitely read SJ Bolton again.
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LibraryThing member readerweb
I never miss a S.J. Bolton book. Suspense, murder, ghosts,and unusual story line keeps one guessing until the last page. In this book a new vicar takes over a small church in the Moors. He meets a family who has recently built a new house by the church with three small children. Tom the oldest begins to have nightmares, issues with safety of his younger brother and sister. There have been mysterious deaths in the village over the years and the vicar begins to tie the points together with the help of a local therapist.
Drama and suspense keeps you turning the pages. Not a book for that lonely stormy night, more bright sunshine and beach required.
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LibraryThing member CasualFriday
The Fletchers have built a beautiful new house in the tiny village of Heptenclough, and they don't entirely fit in. Neither does the brand new vicar, Harry, who seems to think less about God than about romantic prospects with Evi, a psychiatrist working with a village woman mourning her dead daughter. Both Harry and the Fletcher children start hearing strange voices. Young Tom is terrified of a monstrous little girl that none of the adults believes he sees. When toddler Millie narrowly escapes falling to her death in the old church, Harry and Evi connect her near accident with a string of deaths of other little girls, including the daughter of Evi's patient.

The first half of the book is a gothic delight, with some genuinely creepy moments and fascinating depictions of rather ghoulish local folk customs. Then the book deteriorates into a standard-issue suspense novel with breathless manhunts and helicopters and such. The denouement is unbelievable, and the mystery is solved through the vehicle of what Roger Ebert refers to as the Talking Killer, in which the murderer feels compelled to explain everything in great detail, thereby giving the victim a chance to escape.
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LibraryThing member caroline123
I loved Blood Harvest! It has all the elements of a great gothic mystery - set on the moors of England in a small village, it is full of mystery, suspense, and chills, with a supernatural tone to it which kept me guessing until the end. Although long for a mystery (400+ pages), I was eager to find out what happened next in this atmospheric tale. Very well written with characters that are extremely well-drawn. I enjoyed this book even more than her previous two books, and I loved both of them. As Tess Gerritsen says on the cover "this author is one to watch". 5 stars. Book provided by the publisher through LibraryThing's Early review program.… (more)
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Slow burning start, speeds up later, story about a village with secrets, as all villages have, only this one involves dead children. Featuring Evi the psychologist and Reverend Harry the new vicar in the village, a family who have just built a house in the village, the children claim they see a ghostly child, and then strange things start to happen.

I enjoyed it, except the epilogue, it just didn't work for me. I liked Harry and would have liked to see more of him, if there are further books with him I'd like them.
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LibraryThing member Djupstrom
Better than her first book, but I doubt I will read another by Bolton
LibraryThing member Amsa1959
This is an easy read, perfect for a cosy afternoon in the sofa during a rainy afternoon. I had a hard time putting it down. It´s a bit old-fashioned, the ingredients are a vicar, an isolated remote village, an old churchyard, love, buried secrets, ancient rituals and genetic diseases.

In a way it reminded me a little of a nice and cosy Midsomer Murder mysteries… (more)
LibraryThing member VirginiaG
I have a few authors that I wait impatiently for their new books to come out. A few of those authors are Louise Penny, Alan Bradley, Sarah Addison Allen, and now S.J. Bolton. Her writing is clear and concise and her characters are believable. I love the paranormal aspect. She doesn't slam you in the face with it. It is subtle and hits you when you don't expect it. This one kept me guessing right up to the end. I thought I knew what was happening but I had a pleasant surprise. I have only read a couple of her books so far and I will be searching out the rest.… (more)


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