This is one of my favourite books of 2020. The writing is beautiful both in the description of the nuanced rural Irish landscape and the telling of the tale. It reminds me of Donna Tartt and Andrew Michael Hurley in the way the minute details are expressed in an authentic and haunting way.
A retired police officer from Chicago takes on a dilapidated cottage in the Irish countryside, close to a village where everyone knows everyone's business with seemingly unnatural speed. The beginning of the story focuses on painting walls and rubbing down woodwork. It's a slow process but is fitting with the pace of the rural life within the farming community. He enjoys the work and the prospect of spending his days fishing and hunting for his own dinner. He is searching for the peace his previous life didn't offer. Then a poor, disadvantaged teenager turns up asking for help in finding his missing brother.
The skill of this book is that it gives the impression that the community is at one with the natural landscape: they work together in seasonal cycles and concealing the same secrets. It doesn't feel like the usual crime fiction - and I'm not sure that a missing teenager is necessarily a crime until evidence of such is revealed. The Irish dialect is portrayed well and clear enough to be understood and the many characters are well rounded. But best of all is the budding relationship between the ex-cop and the adolescent waif. Neither of them are as gruff as their exteriors. This is their story. And even when the searcher's job is done and whereabouts of the missing boy are disclosed, the book doesn't end until the search for the peace of mind is found.
Atmospheric, eerie, slightly gothic, beautiful and clever. Highly recommended if you like books with a sense of place.
Published by Penguin General Uk on 4 November 2020.
Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.