“The Old Religion” by Martyn Waites – Book Review

Tom Killgannon was an undercover cop up North, but now he is living under witness protection in rural Cornwall. Tom Killgannon is not his real name. Now, he works in the bar of the Sail Makers, a small, family-owned pub.

“This was his life now. This was his world. Shrunk down to the inside of an old pub in a remote part of North Cornwall.”

In addition to Tom’s traumatic experiences with gangs while working as an undercover policeman in Manchester, he has also done tours in Afghanistan as a commando. He has much in his life that he’d like to forget.  He takes antidepressants daily, Now, in addition to working at the pub, he is having an affair with the village’s female police officer.  Rachel is married, but the sexual chemistry between her and Tom is too much to resist.

One day after walking home from work along the coastal path, Tom finds that a teenage girl has broken into his house. She seems injured, frightened, and starving. He feeds her, but when Rachel comes to the door she runs away again. Only she takes Tom’s coat with her. In his coat is his new identity. His credit cards, his passport, everything that proves he is now Tom Killgannon. The girl, Lila, has stolen them all…

A young man has gone missing in St. Petroc. A student, he was just passing through…

The tiny village of St. Petroc is dying a slow death. Brexit has done this declining village no favours and businesses have closed. The young people leave as soon as they are able.  The only thing that might save the village is the building of a new marina. Seeing as St. Petroc doesn’t have much to recommend it, the likelihood of them winning the bid for the new marina is slim. Unless…

“The wall between the two worlds is very thin here. And magic is strong. The spirits can cross over and back again. And when you ask them for help they will give it. If you ask correctly.”

The village people have banded together. They have weekly meetings in a room upstairs from the pub. They are desperate, and desperate times call for drastic measures. They are all in fear of the powerful ‘Morrigan‘, a charismatic, fanatical leader who uses the ‘old religion’ to exert his/her power over the villagers.

“If you’ve lived here all your life, you’ll have seen the old religion in action. You turn back to what you know works best when you’re threatened, when you’re desperate.”

I really enjoyed this novel. The Cornish landscape was vividly rendered. The “Old Religion” only too real as well.

The reader is not told whether the Morrigan character is a man or a woman. The author keeps you guessing – which adds to the mystery. I’ll admit, I didn’t guess Morrigan’s identity before hand.

Tom was a likable character. Though he was emotional fragile, he was morally and physically strong. The peripheral characters were also well drawn and interesting.

The premise of how desperate people are easily led to do just about anything if it improves their condition, is an unwelcome truth.

The writing kept me engrossed throughout and I eagerly turned the pages to find out how the author would tie up the plot. Make no mistake, this is a chilling, sometimes bizarre, tension-filled, dark thriller with a very satisfactory ending. I’ve discovered that Tom Killgannon is to return in further books – which I look forward to reading.

Highly recommended!

4.5 stars which I will round UP for Goodreads and Amazon reviews as they don’t allow half stars.

Many thanks to Francesca at Bonnier Zaffre who kindly provided me with a digital copy of this title for review purposes.


Martyn Waites was born and raised in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He has written nine novels under his own name and five under the name Tania Carver. He has been nominated for every major British crime fiction award, has been chosen as a Guardian Book of the Year and has won the Grand Prix du Roman Noir.

Follow Martyn Waites on Twitter

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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5 Responses to “The Old Religion” by Martyn Waites – Book Review

  1. Pingback: #BookRecommendations with titles that start with the letter ‘O’ #GreatReads | Fictionophile

  2. Jee Wan says:

    Great review! This may be a very good read since it gets 4.5 from you! ❤️


  3. Always enjoy your on target reviews as well as info about any new thrillers that are recommended.

    Liked by 1 person

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