Review: F G Cottam – The Colony

This blog isn’t turning into a into a supernatural thriller site, I promise, but I like my reading to be spontaneous. An interesting The Colonyexchange on Twitter made me interrupt the current book that I was reading, clear out my kindle and download a novel I wanted to read that is only available as an e-book. In my review of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir’s I Remember You I mentioned the writer F G Cottam who writes excellent thrillers with a supernatural bent. On Twitter he mentioned that his latest novel The Colony is available only as an e-book. My kindle and I have a fractious relationship. I don’t like reading on it and it responds to my neglect with screen freezes and irregular 3G access. However, as I wanted to read Cottam’s latest book, I cleared out some of the old novels that had been sitting on it for a while and charged it up.

The colony of the book’s title is the remote New Hope Island in the Hebrides. In 1825 a group of settlers, led by former slave master Seamus Ballantyne, disappeared from the island, leaving no trace of their whereabouts. The Marie Celeste style disappearance has been a cause of speculation ever since. Media magnate Alexander McIntyre, who is obsessed by the story, decides to launch an modern-day expedition to the island to try to work out what happened. An advance group of military veterans soon discover that the island is being assailed by malignant forces and one of their number disappears. Undeterred, McIntyre sends his experts to the ruins of the community, where an archaeologist, psychic, alien expert, former policeman and virologist all attempt to put their own solutions to the mystery. However soon they to begin to disappear….

Those familiar with Cottam’s writing (The House of Lost Souls, Dark Echo etc) will enjoy this latest book. It has many of the elements that I associate with his writing – a slow build-up of tension and introduction to the main characters followed by a tumultuous and malevolent resolution of the narrative. There is a very large cast of characters in this book. I didn’t find this a problem and I could certainly differentiate the main protagonists but it does mean multiple points of view (which I always enjoy). The most interesting character was Lucy Church, a journalist who accompanies the group and is the first to realise that the expedition is not going to end well. There is also an interesting narrative from Philip Fortescue, a museum curator who holds the key to the resolution of the mystery and is on a race to the island to rescue who he can.

As usual there is a strong feeling of malevolence to Cottam’s writing and I would recommend anyone who’s not read him before to give this book a go. At one point I thought I might be reading an Agatha Christie style And Then There was None type plot but …. well you’ll have to read it yourselves to find out what happens.

I bought my copy of the book which is currently £1.99 on kindle.

17 thoughts on “Review: F G Cottam – The Colony

  1. Sarah – You know, every time I read one of your terrific review of this sort of novel I find myself questioning my usual inclination not to read that kind of book. This one sounds very, very absorbing. I really need to broaden my reading horizons!

  2. Oooh, this sounds very gripping. I don’t have an e-reader but will look into Cottam’s other books because I haven’t read anything by him before. I often quite enjoy thrillers with a supernatural aspect to them.

    • I really would recommend him Marie. I think you are based in the North West so you might want to give ‘Dark Echo’ a go which has some scenes set in Southport.

  3. I do want to broaden my horizons in reading. This year I am going to take some of my son’s suggestions in sci fi, fantasy, etc. But I am not sure about supernatural thrillers. You make it sound good, though. And I really like multiple viewpoints.

    • So do I Tracy. But I know they’re not to everyone’s taste which is why I tend to point them out. Same with the present tense although it’s not used in this book.

  4. I’m like the other commentators – not come across this author or book, but you make it sound enticing (you always do!) so perhaps I should give it a go… I must go and look him up.

    • I think like me, you enjoy printed books so I would recommend, if you were interested, to start with one of Cottam’s paper copies. He has a distinctive style.

  5. Hmmm. Sounds a bit like John Carpenter’s The Thing which I did enjoy – even if I did have to sleep with the light on after reading it! I may just have to look into getting this. Thanks for the review. By the way, the Swedish detective novel with bonus ghostinage – loved it. Who’d have thought!

      • The Thing is actually a movie based on a short story by – I forget who (sorry!). I’ve never actually seen the film, but the screenplay is scary enough!

  6. Had to buy this for my Kindle and loved it, though I actually found the beginning far more unsettling than the denoument itself. I never would have expected you to go for a book like this Sarah, but I’m glad you did and that you reviewed it, as I would probably never have come across it otherwise.

    • Thanks Anwen! I’ve been a fan of Cottam’s for ages. I would recommend any of his other books either in print or kindle format. He has a very distinctive style.

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