Francine Toon: Pine

This review is written with thanks to Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read and review Pine.


They are driving home from the search party when they see her. The trees are coarse and tall in the winter light, standing like men.

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.


I’ve heard a lot about Pine, and it recently won the McIlvanney Prize so I was keen to see what all the fuss is about. I was immediately drawn into the story by the description and the setting, which help to create an eerie atmosphere. I wondered what had happened in the past and how it had affected what was happening in the present, and I was compelled to keep reading to find the answers.

Pine is set in a community where everyone knows each other, and this means that no one is above suspicion. I didn’t find any of the adults particularly likeable, but I was interested in their secrets. I had a huge amount of sympathy for Lauren throughout the novel and I loved the way Toon describes her emotions, encouraging me to continue reading to see what would happen to her.

This novel is best described as a slow burner, and if I’m honest, there were a few occasions where I felt slightly lost. However, as Pine reaches its conclusion, the tension increases and events come to a head. I’m definitely glad I read it: the atmosphere and characters certainly made a mark on me.

Pine is available from Amazon.

I shared an extract from Pine as part of the blog tour in January.

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