Mystery Books for Sale

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by F.G. Cottam
Hodder & Stoughton, May 2012
352 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340981016

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sitting at his son's bedside after a vicious and seemingly unprovoked attack, James Greer looks for a distraction from the interminable waiting and finds a children's book on the hospital ward's randomly populated book shelves. He recognises the illustrations as his wife's work. Lillian is a famous illustrator whose work has now been animated for television. But when he shows her the book, she doesn't remember doing it, and while she agrees it's her work, she has no recollection of ever visiting the place so accurately depicted in the drawings Brodmaw Bay.

One shock comes hard on the heels of another for James. Rocked by the attack on their son, the revelation that Lillian has had an affair with a popular children's author, he then endures strange sightings of inhuman figures in his garden. When a dead schoolgirl starts to appear, the Greers make the decision to uproot their two children, Jack and Olivia, from London. They intend to follow their dream to live in a coastal town far from the violence of the city. Despite warnings from Detective Alex McCabe, the man dealing with their son's attackers, that life is never as perfect as a picture postcard, James Greer visits Brodmaw Bay and is welcomed there by everyone he meets. It's an idyllic village, and as it happens, an idyllic house is available. So the family makes the move. But very soon it becomes clear that far from their finding Brodmaw Bay, it found them, and as Lillian looks deeper into the strange events that led them here, she begins to realise that her fate has always been to return.

After a slow start, this book becomes gripping. The tension starts to rise with the sighting of a 'thing' in the garden of the Greers' London home, and escalates with the vision of the dead little girl, with the horror manifesting itself in the smallest of details. Despite the feeling that Jack and Olivia are a little too idealistic and Lilian's former lover is the last man on earth who should be writing books for kids, the characters are well-balanced and likeable, if not entirely believable.

The only thing that lets the narrative down is the sheer level of coincidence that should make any sane person at least raise an eyebrow. The availability of not one but two houses in a village of just four hundred people and not a single unfriendly soul sitting in the pub uttering the words, 'you're not from around these parts' should at least have aroused some suspicions. The acceptance of newcomers into a village where the electoral roll hasn't changed in fifteen years and there hasn't been a single crime committed since 1932 would certainly raise questions in most adult minds. But if belief can be suspended, this is a great book, a good read and definitely worth the sacrifice of a summer's afternoon.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in South West England. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, June 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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