Blog tour: The Binding Song by Elodie Harper


Dr Janet Palmer is the new lead psychologist at HMP Halvergate in a remote, bleak area of Norfolk. At first, she was excited by the promotion. Then she starts to see how many secrets are hiding behind the high walls.

A string of inmates have committed suicide, leaving no reasons why, and her predecessor has disappeared - along with his notes. The staff are hostile, the threat of violence is ever-present, and there are rumours of an eyeless woman stalking the corridors, punishing the inmates for their sins.

Janet is determined to find out what is really going on. But the longer she stays and the deeper she digs, the more uncertain she feels.

Halvergate is haunted by something. But it may be a terror worse than ghosts...

My thoughts...

As soon as I saw the protagonist was a psychologist I was interested! The bleak atmosphere is well set as Janet starts her new job and finds everyone unwelcoming- I could really empathise with her. 

It didn't take too long for me to work out where the book was going and there was really one main twist. Although there was a tense build up it was also kind of slow- personally I enjoyed reading about Janet's job as prison psychologist but in terms of it being a thriller it did take it's time to build up to something. I also enjoyed the occasional switch to the voice of Steven the prison chaplain. 

There were a few niggles in this book for me. The first being that the story relied on a lot on coincidences... I mean pretty much the whole story hung on them. Also there was a part where it was revealed a character had been murdered by someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. I always get annoyed when mental illness is used as the cause/plot point for being a violent murderer, and feel it perpetuates negative stigma (here's some info about schizophrenia and violence). I also found Janet's behaviour a little puzzling at times, particularly for an intelligent, experienced doctor of her field. 

One thing I did enjoy was the gothic feel of the writing, and the descriptions of Norfolk in Winter time. Overall this book never totally grabbed me, but it was well written, and definitely and intriguing idea. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads. 

Below Elodie has kindly written a piece about the settings in The Binding Song...




Imagining Norfolk (Written by author Elodie Harper) 

Norfolk, where THE BINDING SONG is set, is a character in its own right.  Alien, flat and with its own quiet menace, the landscape is seen almost entirely through the eyes of the book’s protagonist, Dr Janet Palmer.
         Janet’s reaction to Norfolk is not mine, and the Norfolk she lives in is not always the one you can visit by driving to the end of the A11.  Some of it used to exist, but no longer does: the Gallery on St Giles Street which Steven Finch lives above (as I once did) is no longer there, and the eerie drive through the Elveden estate has since been diverted to a more convenient but less atmospheric dual carriageway.  Other locations I invented entirely:  the village of Halverton, HMP Halvergate itself, or Great Yarmouth General Hospital.  But some of the places are real – and very close to my heart.  Here are five of them...

The Acle Strait.  The road which cuts through Halvergate marshes to Great Yarmouth is one of the most evocative drives in the county.  It’s somewhat off the tourist trail, and often snarled up with traffic, but on a clear drive when the early morning mist rises from the marshes and ancient church spires fade to blue against the endless flat horizon, you feel like you are driving through a painting by an Old Dutch Master.

Franks Bar, Norwich.  Steven Finch ends up on a date here.  If you visit, you’ll find there are still tee lights in teapots, books propped everywhere and a fairground horse halfway up one wall.  Quirky and relaxed, I’ve always loved it.

Winterton-on-Sea.  Janet visits the village and hates it.  This is how she sees it in the snow: “Janet slammed the door, her parked car rocking gently behind her.  It was bitingly cold and the wind cut at her ears like a razor.  There was an ugliness about the freezing grey water, the way it churned a path up the snowy shore and left behind a dark slop of sand and stones.  A few hardy souls were out walking, but even from the relative shelter of the dunes, she was finding the wind unbearable.”
         All I can say is, don’t believe Janet.  This is one of my favourite spots on the Norfolk coast, much less visited (and busy) than its more famous neighbours.  If you go, you will find an extraordinarily vast stretch of beach and a lunar landscape of dunes.  Janet’s not lying about the wind in winter, though.

Great Yarmouth.  Steven visits the town off season purely for the chips.  As have I.  There are several market stalls devoted purely to frying chips and nothing else: they’re amazing.  A cameraman colleague told me once as we sat scoffing a bag-full in his car, that the vinegar cuts through the grease meaning you can’t get fat.  Must be true.

St Giles Street, Norwich.  When I first worked at ITV Anglia I walked to work every morning from a rented studio flat on this street (it didn’t look anything like Steven’s place inside – although it did also face the old YMCA).  I love this part of the city.  The Waffle House, the independent jewellery stores, the church – you will find them all there waiting for you just as the book describes.




Also coming in July is the second book from Elodie Harper: The Death Knock! 
The gripping story of a journalist on the hunt for a serial killer...



[Huge thanks to Rosie at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.]

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