Black Wood by SJI Holliday Book Review

Black Wood: A deliciously dark thriller with a shocking secret at its heart (Banktoun Trilogy) by [Holliday, SJI]


He spots the two girls through the cracked screen of beech, sycamore and leg-scratching gorse: a flash of red skirt and a unison of giggles . . . The smaller girl sees him first and she lets out a strange little squeak and jumps back, grabbing onto the other girl’s T-shirt, revealing a flash of milky white shoulder. He grins.

Something happened to Claire and Jo in Black Wood: something that left Claire paralysed and Jo with deep mental scars. But with Claire suffering memory loss and no evidence to be found, nobody believes Jo’s story.

Twenty-three years later, a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dredging up painful memories and rekindling her desire for vengeance. And at the same time, Sergeant David Gray is investigating a balaclava-clad man who is attacking women on a disused railway, shocking the sleepy village of Banktoun. But what is the connection between Jo’s visitor and the masked man?

To catch the assailant, and to give Jo her long-awaited justice, Gray must unravel a tangled web of past secrets, broken friendship and tainted love. But can he crack the case before Jo finds herself with blood on her hands?


Black Wood is the debut novel by SJI Holliday. Set in a small, fictional town in Scotland, Black Wood is perfect for fans of the television show Broadchurch. As the people of the town come under the spotlight in a serious police investigation, the novel explores the dark side of human nature and what we are all capable of doing if faced with an impossible choice.

Something frightening and abhorrent happened in Banktoun many years ago. Jo and Claire’s lives have been defined by events which happened in the past. Claire has fought hard to move on but Jo has struggled and when a man turns up in the town out of the blue, it brings all the memories flooding back. Is this man responsible for what happened to Jo and Claire all those years ago, and when similar attacks begin to happen in the present, is there anything that Jo can do to stop them?

I’d heard so many great things about SJI Holliday’s books so I was excited when I finally got round to reading the first book in her Banktoun trilogy. I wasn’t disappointed. SJI Holliday has created a gripping mystery which hooks you from the first page. I wanted to find out what had happened to Jo and Claire all those years ago and if, what had happened, was linked to events happening in the present. The atmosphere in this book is brilliant; I thought the setting of the town was perfect for this type of crime as I never could be sure about any of the characters in the book.

A really excellent debut. I’m definitely going to be reading more from SJI Holliday.

Publisher: Black & White Publishing

Publication date: 24th February 2015

Print length: 256 pages