Friday, 26 September 2014

The Visitors by Simon Sylvester

review by Maryom

17 year old Flora has always lived on the small Scottish island of Bancree - and it's always seemed a dull, safe sort of place, that she can't wait to leave. When newcomers, a man and his daughter, move into an abandoned house on lonely Dog Rock, Flora is curious about them. After-all, why would anyone pick such an out-of-the-way place to live?  Flora and the daughter Ailsa quickly become friends but the father seems withdrawn and menacing, not making any attempt to fit in with the community.
 At the same time, people have been disappearing from the island - maybe they've just fallen in the sea and been washed away, or got lost on the way home from the pub and are now lying in a ditch, but could there be a killer at large?


The Visitors is a mix of coming of age novel, psychological thriller and myth, set on a remote weather-beaten island somewhere vaguely in the Hebrides. It opens well, setting the scene as Flora and her boyfriend part company as he heads off south to university, capturing her frustration that she must wait another year before it's her turn to head off into the wide world. With another disappearance plus the arrival of newcomers, the atmosphere of fear and mistrust builds, and in between Flora listens to traditional tales of the selkies - sea-creatures, half-human, half-seal, that capture the hearts of fisherman  - and wonders if all these things are related. 
 Now, I'm not averse to novels that mix and mash up reality and fantasy, and as fond of a gothic thriller as the next person - I loved Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls both of which are in a similar vein mixing murder and supernatural, and Amy Sackville's different take on the selkie myth, Orkney - but this didn't grab me. I wondered why, because the story-telling was good and the main characters believable. Then checking links and such for this post, I realised - too much is given away in the 'blurb'; instead of leaving the mystery to unfold as the book is read, most of the reveals are given away in it. It's rather a pity as I think if I'd read it 'cold', I'd have enjoyed it much more.

Another of the shortlist for this year's Not The Booker Prize - see also my review of Iain Maloney's First Time Solo
Maryom's review -  3.5 stars
Publisher - Quercus 
Genre - Adult/YA crossover, thriller,

1 comment:

  1. You've just reminded me I have this - I followed a link to get here. Now I just need to remember where it is! I grew up on a Scottish island, which is what initially attracted me to the book.

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