“The Guardian Stones” is set in the remote, rural village of Noddweir, southwest Shropshire in June 1941. World War II is a pervading blight on the lives of the residents. In addition to most of the young able-bodied men having left the village to fight, they also suffer from shortages, rationing, and blackout conditions. In addition to these hardships, many of the remaining residents have taken in child evacuees from Birmingham.
The villagers of Noddweir are insular, suspicious and superstitious. When children go missing, they become distrustful of their neighbors and fearful of the unknown. Then, several of the villagers are violently murdered and the threat becomes only too real… But is the threat supernatural in origin? Do the standing stones play a part in recent events?
The protagonist is an American who has come to this isolated location to study the ancient standing stones which lie atop the hill near the village. His pen-pal of several years, the village vicar, has told him of the stones and a little of the history of the area.
Edwin, a recent widower and retired university professor is a morose and guilt-ridden man who finds himself attracted to his landlady, Grace. Since he is old enough to be Grace’s father, he chastises himself for his feelings. Grace acts unofficially as the village constable. She has no actual authority, but the villagers look to her for guidance as her father was the policeman before he left to fight in the war.
The novel speaks to the irrationality of folklore, the social aspects of war, the effect environment has on people, and the universality of loss.
I enjoyed the setting, the time period, and the initial premise of the novel. I was disappointed in the novel’s ending and found it very difficult to connect with the characters. The overall pace of the story was slower than I would like and I had no trouble leaving it to do other tasks.
The novel could do with additional editing. Missing words in several instances interrupted the flow of the narrative for me. I read a digital advance reader’s copy so I’m hoping that this didn’t carry over to the finished book.