I grew up in Sutherland and Fife, Scotland. My debut novel, Pine, won the 2020 McIlvanney Prize, was shortlisted for the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year and was longlisted for the Highland Book Prize and the Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award. My poetry, written as Francine Elena, has appeared in The Sunday Times, The Best British Poetry 2013 and 2015 anthologies (Salt) and Poetry London, among other places. I live in London and work at The Novelry.
My agent is Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown.
Cover design by Beci Kelly at Doubleday UK
Praise in the press:
'A literary gothic thriller to chill the marrow' Guardian
'[A] simmering gothic thriller' Daily Mail
'[A] pacey horror-tinged novel ... Even with the strange and supernatural goings-on in the woods, it’s the rage and grief and darkness of grown-ups that’s the biggest mystery of all' Telegraph, Best First Novels of 2020
'The novel's strength is its evocation of bleak landscapes and complex characters.' Sunday Times
'Splicing small-town domestic drama with grisly mystery and occult thrills, it’s a cleverly crafted debut.' Metro
'One of the standout debuts of the year.' Irish Independent
'As gripping as any boxset.' Sunday Times Scotland
'This haunting debut is a must-read for fans of eerie gothic fiction.' The Skinny
'An evocative read which will keep you guessing.' Sunday Independent
'A thrill of a book.' i-D
Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.
In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.
Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.
In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.
Praise from authors:
'Creeping me out in the very best way' Ian Rankin (Twitter)
'I loved this book! Hugely atmospheric, exquisitely written and utterly gripping.'
Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party
'From the first page Pine casts a sense of slowly-rising unease that is completely compelling. It's both eerie and thrilling at once, and had me under its spell until the end.'
Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure
'A moving study of memory and loss . . . both spooky and tender; drenched in a sense of place and yet eerily timeless.'
Mick Herron, author of Slow Horses
'Combines the Gothic sensibilities of Shirley Jackson with the psychologically astute suspense of Gillian Flynn . . . will leave you gripped and transfixed.'
Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
'Francine Toon's touching account of a flawed, yet tender, father-daughter relationship in Pine is all the more compelling against the starkly beautiful backdrop of the Scottish highlands.'
Livia Franchini, author of Shelf Life