The Vicar Man (Amelia Crowley) – Book Review

Amelia Crowley’s debut novel The Vicar Man (we see what you did there!) tells a story that’s both familiar and… not. With more than a nod and wink towards a certain well-known horror movie, our setting is an island (known simply as The Island), populated by folks who worship an ancient and possibly eldritch pagan god.

A god who just so happens to need satisfying with a virgin sacrifice once a year in order for the harvests to be bountiful and for the fish to throw themselves into the nets. That’s the theory, anyway. So far the sacrifices don’t seem to be helping matters any, but the locals keep on trying!

This year their intended victim is Norman Poltwhistle, a new vicar fresh from the mainland. Standing in their way this time, however, is barmaid Dora, who has decided that she’s had quite enough of this whole sacrificing people malarky and sets out to save the vicar’s life.

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First she tries to scare him off so he’ll return to the mainland, and when that fails she sets out to, well, “disqualify” him. After all, it’s a virgin sacrifice and he’s a man and she’s a woman so this should be simple! The problem is, he’s also a man of the cloth, and seemingly entirely ignorant or immune to her increasingly frustrated and desperate attempts to tempt him into a quick roll in the hay.

The Vicar Man isn’t a book for everyone. Dora is a little too full of herself at times, and the book full of self-deprecating humour and wry, occasionally overly-intelligent observations that you’re either going to find funny or irritating. There are plenty of other memorable characters in the shape of the beautiful Molly, whose heart is broken every other week; the man known only (at least as far as Dora is concerned) as Himself With The Apple Trees; and of course the charmingly oblivious vicar himself, who walks the fine line between sympathetically naïve and outright buffoonery.

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The book is very knowing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s very aware of the subject matter it’s lampooning/paying homage to and it does it very well. There are also some beautiful turns of phrase, my personal favourite being “Mrs Barker was the human embodiment of the word ‘tut’.” But honestly the best reason to read this book is that it’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

Sure, sometimes Dora is a little too smart for her own good and occasionally veers from charming to pompous, but it never lasts for long. On the whole, the story of her increasingly desperate attempts to woo the vicar before he’s served up like a Sunday roast to the Island God is one that’s well worth reading. Will Dora be able to disqualify the vicar before it’s too late? You’ll have to take a trip out to the Island and see the sights for yourself to find out.

The Vicar Man is out now, and available in Paperback or Kindle edition.

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