Book Review: Mortlock by Jon Mayhew

Mortlock is the debut novel by Jon Mayhew. It was first released in hardback in 2010 but was released in paperback on 4th January 2011 by Bloomsbury. The book is 400 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

Mortlock has its own website ( where you can find more information about the author as well as fun things to do and read.

Some years ago, a trio of men discovered something they had been searching years for. A plant that they thought would give them everything they ever wanted turns out to not be everything it had once seemed, leading the three men down very different paths.

In Victorian London, Josie works as a knife thrower with her magician guardian, Cardamom, who took her in as a baby when she was orphaned. Although her life isn’t perfect, she is happy performing each night and would gladly do it forever. When three mysterious ‘aunts’ show up at her guardian’s door, they change everything. After taking over the house and poisoning Cardamom, his last wish before he dies is that she find the Amarant and Mortlock.

Unable to forget his request, Josie heads out on an adventure to solve the puzzle but ends up with so much more than she bargained for.

What I thought
I truly felt that when I decided to start reading this book that I would hate it. Something about the cover/ description just didn’t appeal to me but I definitely wanted to give it a shot. The cover is a very evil green colour with a hand reaching out from the ground as well as black claws coming down from the top. Straight away, you know this book has an eerie feel to it and the black edged pages helped to add to that feeling.

Jon Mayhew’s website ( states that this book is suitable for 8+ children. I have to strongly disagree with this though and a fair amount of it gave me the creeps and some parts were very disgusting and graphic. If I had read this book when I was 8 years old, I would have been terrified. I would actually be reluctant to recommend this to even 12 year olds, especially girls. I know my 12 year old cousin would have nightmares for days if she read this.

The book begins with a prologue, explaining to the reader who Mortlock is and the kinds of things he has done in his life. The first part of the book is nothing like the rest of it though. I thought this was going to turn out to be some kind of action/ adventure through the jungle but I was so, so wrong. I did like how the book began, even if it was a little confusing at times but it did set the scene really well for what was to come.

The diversity of characters was one of the main things that made this book so interesting. Josie is a knife thrower with her magician guardian, the Great Cardamom. Her brother, Alfie is an undertaker’s assistant. Pretty crazy jobs for 13 year olds but they suit them both really well. Josie, although not entirely comfortable with her life, makes the most of what she has and is determined to put things right in the world. I really felt for Josie when the ‘Aunts’ turned up and began to throw her whole life upside-down. Having already been through quite a lot and not having the most normal of lives, I didn’t want to see her go through any more hurt than was necessary. When Josie found out that she had a brother, she was not impressed and to be honest, neither was I. I really disliked him to begin with and found him to be much like a spoilt brat spitting his dummy out. He was selfish and obviously didn’t want a sister as much as Josie didn’t want a sister. It turns out that I judged him far too quickly and soon enough, he and Josie were much happier when they were together, even if they were running away from the crazy raven women.

Coming to the ending, I have to say that I wasn’t completely satisfied with it. After all that had happened throughout the book up until this point, I was expecting this massive, all or nothing, kind of showdown but it wasn’t what I got. I think the excitement and mystery had been built up so much throughout the book that the ending would have had to have been huge in order to keep me happy. While the ending was good, I felt it was rushed and it should have gotten more attention and for this reason, I was left feeling disappointed.

The pacing of this book was excellent. While there is quite a lot of adventure and action, there are also plenty of places which give you the chance to catch your breath. Once I had really gotten into this book, I didn’t want to put it down, wanting to find out what crazy idea Jon Mayhew would come up with next. Let’s just say that the ‘Aunts’ are not the only scary things going on. By the time I had finished reading this one, it was about 1am and I was utterly freaked out. There were so many things that I could have had nightmares about.

Although not recommended for younger readers, Mortlock is a gothic, creepy read that will drag you in and not let go!


  1. Have this sitting on my shelf- looking forward to it even more now! Great review

  2. Now see I love the cover of this book. It really appeals to the hidden Goth in me. I love the creepiness of it too. Must get hold of a copy of this.

  3. Great review. I've got this on my tbr pile and can't wait to read it now.

  4. What a great review, I've got this one on my pile to read very soon and I'm really looking forward to it!

  5. I get the feeling that this isn't really for me. I am certainly put off by the dispappointing climax. Also the gore does not appeal. I'm glad you enjoyed it though.


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