In Cradle Cross, where local women are characterized as "the Ruths and the Naomis," alliances run deep. Little surprise, then, that the arrival of a half-blind woman should raise suspicion or that much of the plot depends on the unraveling of three questions: who Isa Fly is, where she is from, and why she is here. Many a novel has begun with a stranger settling in a small town, but Anna Lawrence Pietroni has taken this familiar scenario and spun an intelligently conceived, atmospheric tale rife with maleficia, mermaid folklore, religious references and a darkness mirrored by the "Cut," the brackish canal dredged by a woman ominously known as "The Blackbird." She revisits themes including revenge, the power of rumors, and the nature of cruelty (whether premeditated or simply reactionary) in ways that gradually reveal how certain characters share a common bond.
Beyond the Book
England's Black Country
is currently defined as the West Midlands region encompassing Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell,
though the specific borders have been previously debated. The name reputedly derives from the thick Staffordshire coal seam and from the area's industrial past. Once home to steel mills, coal mines, glassworks, and factories that produced chains, locks, leather, nails, cast iron and similar goods, the Black Country also inspired writers such as Elihu Berrit, whose Walks in the Black Country and Its Green Border-land
begins: "The Black Country, black by day and red by night
is a section of Titanic industry, kept in murky...