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Book Review

Book Cover

Witch Bottle


Author: Tom Fletcher
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
310 pages
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 1 84866 260 5
Publication Date: 26 November 2020

Tom Fletcher is an obvious adherent to David Lynch’s idea that beneath the cosy exterior of modern life all sorts of weird shit is going on.

In his new novel, Witch Bottle (310 pages) he takes us into the seemingly mundane life of Daniel, who works as a milkman. The rural setting of his round is no coincidence, he chose the job so as to be isolated and out of contact with people as much as possible.

The book opens with Daniel’s surreal and unsettling dream of a giant, the skill with which this is written makes the reader feel as unsettled as Daniel who is experiencing it.

This is a central theme of the book. It is not a horror novel per se, rather it sets out to mix the ordinary with the extraordinary. A good example of this is the Fallen Stock men. On the surface their job is to dispose of dead carcases, Daniel's interactions with them hints at something more going on. His first encounter with them is inexplicably aggressive and even when he asks the guy if he wants his details, following a minor prang, the fallen stock man replies that he wants to walk the world like it is his again. All very odd.

Of course, while there is a lot of isolation involved, in being a rural milkman, Daniel cannot avoid people completely and part of the book is Fletcher fleshing out the customers who he has to deal with. This is the part of the book which will either make or break it for you as the author spends considerable time on this part of the narrative.

As he travels around it becomes clear that Daniel is not the only one having nightmares and seeing things.

One the places Daniel likes to frequent, on his rounds, is the La’al Tattie shop, owned by Katheryn, who turns out to be a witch. She is able to supply Daniel with the titular Witch Bottle to fend off his nightly visitors. So successful is this that Daniel agrees to use his round to distribute them to customers who are having similar problems. 

One of the central mysteries and there are quite a few, is why Daniel has chosen to isolate himself. In a series of flashback chapters we learn of his previous life with Ellie, which is likewise odd.

There is a lot of Lovecraft in this novel as Fletcher expertly describes the creeping horror of the situation, without denying or confirming whether something is really happening, whether it is all in Daniel's head or if there is some form of group hysteria which Daniel himself is creating. For the majority of chapters we only see events and their interpretations through his eyes and we cannot tell if his narrative can be trusted.

An excellent novel, as long as you are willing to immerse yourself in the minutia of Daniel's life.


Charles Packer

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