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That Old Black Magic

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Imprint: Serpent's Tail
Pages: 368
Subject: Crime, Fiction

That Old Black Magic

Cathi Unsworth

A Cathi Unsworth special: murder, magic and mayhem in wartime England

9781781257272 (8 Mar 2018)

About the book

April 1943: four boys playing in Hagley Woods, Worcestershire make a gruesome discovery. Inside an enormous elm tree, there is the body of a woman, her mouth stuffed with a length of cloth. As the case goes cold, mysterious graffiti starts going up across the Midlands: 'Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?'

To Ross Spooner, a police officer working undercover for spiritualist magazine Two Worlds, the messages hold a sinister meaning. He's been on the track of a German spy ring who have left a trail of black magic and mayhem across England, and this latest murder bears all the hallmarks of an ancient ritual.

At the same time, Spooner is investigating the case of Helen Duncan, a medium whose messages from the spirit world contain highly classified information. As the establishment joins ranks against Duncan, Spooner must face demons from his own past, uncover the spies hiding beneath the fabric of wartime society - and confront those who suspect that he, too, may not be all he seems ...

About the author

Cathi Unsworth began a career in journalism at nineteen on the music weekly Sounds, and has since worked for many music, arts, film and alternative lifestyle journals. She is the author of five other novels, Without the Moon [9781846689864], Weirdo [9781846687938] The Not Knowing [9781852428921], The Singer [9781846686405] and Bad Penny Blues [9781846686788], and the editor of the award-winning crime compendium London Noir, all published by Serpent's Tail. She lives in London.


That Old Black Magic blends fact and fiction for a well researched, evocative tale about one of the weirder outposts of second world war British intelligence.

- Laura Wilson, Guardian

In wartime superstition runs rife, but we've had to wait for Cathi Unsworth to draw out the strange links between spies, sorcerers and superstition in this, her latest and best novel. From the bones of almost unbelievable true-life events involving witchcraft and conspiracy in the mist-shrouded British countryside, Unsworth brings to life a Dennis Wheatley-esque cast of characters both real and imagined, and spins a superbly sinister mystery that had me hugging myself with delight.

- Christopher Fowler

A great crime novel with a supernatural twist that will keep you guessing until the end.

- Sarah Shaffi, Stylist

Excellent ... a gripping and unpredictable occult mystery. There are shades of Dennis Wheatley, but with a distinctly modern sensibility.

- John Williams, Mail on Sunday

Written with verve and ambition, it's a gripping tale that reminds you what thrillers can do.

- Francesca Brown, Emerald Street

Additional Information

Imprint: Serpent's Tail
Pages: 368
Subject: Crime, Fiction

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