The Witches of Hogsback by Sally Partridge

Zelda is a self-proclaimed do-gooder and cannot stay quiet if she sees something wrong. Unfortunately, this doesn’t win her any popularity contests – and now not even her ex-boyfriend, Dylan, wants to put up with her anymore. Desperate to escape from everything for a while, Zelda signs up for the school’s hiking trip to Hogsback. Her illusion of having a nice, relaxing time shatters when she stumbles upon a mystery nobody else wants to solve: the death of local teen Stephan Dale. Quickly, she is neck-deep in trouble: from having her room vandalised to nearly being killed. Someone clearly doesn’t want her solving Stephan’s death. Her prime suspects are the group of teenagers known as the ‘witches of Hogsback’, but are they really witches?

There is more to this case than meets the eye.

Sally Partridge is a phenomenal author! I have a fan of her work since I picked up a copy of Dark Poppy’s Demise at Kalk Bay Books back in 2012. She imbues her work with such a sense of place that for me it is like visiting South Africa each time I start reading her work. If you have never had the privilege to visit Hogsback then this novel will take you there.

In an era of epic 300+ page young adult novels and multi book series it is an absolute delight to pick up a self-contained novel that rattles along at a fairly fast pace and takes you with it. Initially I found Zelda to be a vaguely annoying protagonist (possibly because I was similar to her when I was in my teens) but as the story progressed I found myself warming to her and as the sense of mystery and danger deepened as the story continued I found myself becoming more and more concerned for her safety (and that of her hiking club buddies) and saying things like “Why are you making such poor decisions?” in my head.

If I may take a short digression for a moment: mystery books are bad for people with teens and kids in their lives because we worry about the protagonists and get stressed out when they make poor decisions that are necessary to progress the plot along

Anyway back to the review:

The story had just the right amount of holiday rebound romance, mystery and uncertainty; the aura of menace hooked me and kept me reading through the night. For me the real star of the story was the landscape (I can’t help it – I miss South Africa, and this novel took me home for a few hours).

Overall I found The Witches of Hogsback to be an incredibly satisfying read, the ending felt like a beginning for Zelda and he new-found friends rich with hope and excitement.

The Witches of Hogsback is published by LAPA Publishers in South Africa and is available digitally via most online retailers.

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