Review: Matthew Pink – Scafell

ScafellMy resolution at the start of the year to read my e-books has slipped recently and I’ve been having to decline what look like decent novels that have been published independently. One that I couldn’t resist, however, was Scafell by Matthew Pink. Although I’m based in the Peak District, I have relatives in the nearby Lakes and the name Scafell has a lot of emotional resonance for those of us who know the region. The area is home to the highest peaks in England and, biased as I may be towards my own national park, I do think the Lakes their own special beauty. I’ve also mentioned before that I think a rural setting makes a great backdrop to a crime novel and, once again, I’m proved right.

Stephen ‘Sparky’ Markham moves to the Lake District in search of peace and quiet. However his hopes of a rural idyll are dashed by the discovery locally of a mutilated body. His friend, Detective Charlie Slider, is supposed to be investigating the case but disappears and Sparky is forced to confront the mysterious world of fracking that is proposed for the local bay.

Those familiar with the Lake District will love the references to the area. I think some artistic licence has been taken with the location of a few of the places but, to be honest, this didn’t bother me in the slightest. Surely the whole point of fiction is that it represents reality without being bound by it.

The writer has a distinct narrative voice and this comes across clearly from the first page. The opening is particularly strong and the evocation of the elements struck a chord.  The countryside is harnessed to the weather and the writer cleverly balances a murder plot with a strong feel for the setting. Rain is part and parcel for those of us living in the north of England and, in this book, you could almost smell the damp oozing out of the pages.

The plot is kept interesting by twists and turns that are very much in the crime fiction conventions and kept me engrossed until the end.

I hope that this writer will reach a wider audience as Scafell is well written crime novel with a special setting. Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of the book.

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.