He was running from his past.
She was running from her future.
Sometimes helping a stranger is the last thing you should do . . .
The Cornish village of St Petroc is the sort of place where people come to hide. Tom Killgannon is one such person. An ex-undercover cop, Tom is in the Witness Protection Programme hiding from some very violent people and St Petroc’s offers him a chance to live a safe and quiet life.
Until he meets Lila.
Lila is a seventeen-year-old runaway. When she breaks into Tom’s house she takes more than just his money. His wallet holds everything about his new identity. He also knows that Lila is in danger from the travellers’ commune she’s been living at. Something sinister has been going on there and Lila knows more than she realises.
But to find her he risks not only giving away his location to the gangs he’s in hiding from, but also becoming a target for whoever is hunting Lila.
Also by the same author (as Tania Carver)
When Martyn Waites was writing as Tania Carver, he was easily one of my favourite authors. I dived into The Old Religion with high expectations and trust in the author.
The story introduces a newcomer to St Petroc in the West Country. It is a place that is slowly dying, with shops closing and zero investment. Typical rural England on its last legs. Tom Killgannon is now based there, under witness protection. Poor bloke. He has a job in the local pub. He is the typical outsider, in a community of eccentrics set in their ways and drowning in village tradition. Two major events occur. A student disappears from the locality. Then Tom finds a desperate runaway teenage girl Lila, in his home. She steals his coat, which had all of his new ID information in the pocket. Silly place for him to keep important stuff. He is soon trying to track Lila down, looking for clues in the cult like commune, she lives in. He draws attention to himself. Not good. He mentions Noah, Kai and something called ‘the Morrigan’. This leads to Tom being very much ostracized from the local community. Things gets weird and weirder still, in a sort of Wicker Man (1973) kind of way.
Martyn Waites can write crime to perfection. It is really strange. The Old Religion felt like an old grainy horror movie, with an odd present day Brexit setting. Imagine a retelling of The Wicker Man (1973), with a touch of The Daemons (Doctor Who 1971) and a sprinkle of Nigel Farage. Yep, see what I mean. I was shaking my head. I was struggling with the believability factor. It was a mass of horror cliches. Same old story that has been told a million times before, with a modern day setting. The whole village is under a malevolent entity, like in a 1973 Doctor Who episode. Cue ominous music. Cue villagers waving pitchforks. The Morrigan was the baddie of the piece. He lacked something. The villagers were your typical ‘living in a horror movie’ villagers. Amusing though. I laughed.
Shame Martyn Waites doesn’t quite pull it all off. It seemed like a pastiche, lacking originality. The premise has been done to death. We have seen it all before, in popular culture. Paganism. Outsiders versus insiders. Odd suspicious villagers. Cults. Occult symbolism. I suppose it works as a kind of Little Britain/horror movie tribute. It just has low impact as a thriller.