THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC
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 ...
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 2018-02-17)
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 2017-11-02)
With an exquisite feel for the English countryside, a sure eye for a lavish occult ritual and a colourfully sketched collection of raffish, bohemian characters, That Old Black Magic is a carnival of dark delights… (Declan Hughes, Irish Times 2018-03-24)