Before the main event, a couple of bits and pieces.
First off, there’s a new Donald Ray Pollock due for release in July. It’s called The HeavenlyTable and you can take a look at it here and pre-order if you’re so inclined. That’s great news. I’ll be ordering in hardback because I want it on my shelves rather than on my kindle. I can recommend it already and, beyond the title, I haven't read a word. Can’t wait.
I’d also like to point out that my latest, The Shallows (US), is at the release price (99p/99c) for the last day. Thanks to all those who’ve taken the time to spread the news, buy copies or pass on their feedback as reviews or messages. All the little things mean a lot. I’m very grateful.
The cover of this very tight novella is perfect. It shows a man disintegrating as he stands looking out to sea. It’s a match for the book because that’s what happens within. Ex-boxer and prison inmate Ned Flynn is slowly falling apart, as is his resolve to sort out his life.
At the opening, Flynn returns home and decides that he should make space and time to look after his fragile mother. In order to help him do that, he needs cash. To go straight, he takes a job from a local gangster who wants Flynn to bring his estranged wife, Nia, back.
From this point on, nothing is simple.
Flynn falls for Nia. In no time at all he’s obsessed. She provides him with the soothing calm and the desire that distract him from his other woes.
The problem is that Nia’s history seems troubled. Her most recent partner is dead and she he has set up a shrine within the house for him. Folk in the village are deeply suspicious of her and don’t mind spreading poisonous gossip. She owes money all over the place and has turned the heads of all the men around. The message that this lady is not to be trusted comes from all directions, yet Flynn is in too deep to care.
As you might imagine, things get very messy.
Flynn falls foul of the locals. He also fails to resist bouts of drinking that he knows will accelerate his downfall. His mind begins to unravel and he becomes tangled in a web of his own making. He’s even seeing the ghost of Nia’s ex and is haunted by the uncertainty this creates.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It’s a substantial read. The femme fatale has all the required attributes just as Flynn has all the requisite weakness. They have a great chemistry and it’s clear that their lives together are going to lead to an explosion. The wait for that explosion is tense and unsettling and the twists and turns along the way are well-paced and gripping.
The setting in this book is also well created. The woodland and coast provide an open and beautiful landscape, yet Bird manages to twist this into a claustrophobic space that adds hugely to the dark mood.
A super tale that fits the noir mould like a large hand fits a small glove.