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The Memory of Trees    by F. G. Cottam order for
Memory of Trees
by F. G. Cottam
Order:  USA  Can
Severn House, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Arboreal specialist Tom Curtis really needs a lot of money. So, when eccentric billionaire Saul Abercrombie promises to pay him extravagantly for a bizarre, over-the-top project, Curtis does not hesitate. Yes, Curtis says, he will transform Abercrombie's enormous estate on the Welsh coastline; thousands of treeless, windswept, fog-shrouded acres will once again become a pristine, medieval forest filled with all manner of native trees. Almost immediately, however, Curtis, upon surveying the property, begins to sense that the job may be even bigger and more problematic than first imagined.

Here are some of the problems: (1) Curtis explores a tiny, ancient church on Abercrombie's property, and a stained-glass window depicting an armored knight holding the severed head of a monstrous creature seems oddly out of place (and familiar) in this medieval place of worship. (2) An enormous thorn bush - odd, ugly, sinister, and isolated - seems even more out of place (and unusual) than the church's window. (3) At the coastline, in the midst of a heavy fog, when Curtis inspects the ceremonially planted first tree, he thinks he hears laughter coming from a nearby cairn and a scream coming from the nearby seaside cliff. (4) The septuagenarian Abercrombie, as if in full-disclosure mode, tells Curtis about the ancient legends associated with the estate, involving monsters in coastal caves, a seductive woman who leads them, a powerfully enchanted forest, and an even more powerful hero; however, for his own selfish reasons, Abercrombie is not telling the whole truth.

Undeterred, chalking everything up to fairy tale nonsense and an eccentric's whims, Curtis presses on. Then, however, a key player at the Abercrombie estate, inexplicably vanishes without a trace. Perhaps that missing person should have stayed away from ...

Well, when readers reach the midway point in The Memory of Trees, even the least attentive among them will have understood that Curtis has made a huge mistake. The tree-planting job - even if it pays well - should not have been attempted. Finally, potential readers ought to know this: As if channeling the talents of H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and the Brothers Grimm, author F. G. Cottam has served up a chilling, gothic tale that will have readers staying up late (but with the lights on). And trust me, folks, this is no fairy tale for children! (Postscript: This reviewer is now more than a little concerned about the trees in his backyard. Are they moving, or is it my imagination?)

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