Although Alex Beecroft is the instigator and driving force behind the shared-universe that is Porthkennack and its surrounding Cornish countryside, the stories to date have all been by collaborator authors. Not so for the fifth book in the series, as the town’s creator takes the reins and gives us yet another glimpse into this utterly fascinating community.
Like several of the heroes we’ve met so far, Sam Atkins finds himself in the area of Porthkennack by chance; he’s been travelling in a converted van for six months and now needs a sheltered spot to pitch up for the winter. Preferably one where he won’t get charged rent since his funds are getting low, and the last thing he wants is for his well-off, suffocating family to find an excuse to drag him back home and force him to return to the life he had before, with its attendant feelings of guilt and paralysing anxiety attacks.
Having found a secluded spot, however, Sam’s troubles are far from over. A sheep has been slaughtered, in what appears to be a ritual killing, and the farmer suspects Sam of being the culprit. Her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, isn’t convinced, though, especially when it transpires that Sam’s laptop has been stolen. Not long after, he learns that his sister and her school friends are the victims of a cyber-bullying campaign, with dead animals and birds being left on the doorsteps of some of them, and at least one girl has committed suicide after the adults failed to take her plight seriously.
Ruan recruits Sam to investigate the crimes, having seen that the stranger knows about both the occult and computers. Their attempts to retrieve Sam’s laptop as a first step soon lead them into conflict with members of the Lusmoore family, others of whom we met in the previous novel. Undeterred, the pair continue their investigations, and we learn a little more about what the Lusmoores are up to and why their criminal endeavours are surreptitiously tolerated by many of the villagers.
This was quite possibly my favourite book of the series so far. Not only are Ruan and Sam a thoroughly engaging and enterprising pair, but the structure of the community is explained in far more detail than hitherto, as we get to meet the matriarchs of the various clans. The interactions between and amongst the different generations is thoroughly believable and I particularly loved the confounding of stereotypes exhibited by a young trans* character who declares her ambition to work on her father’s fishing boat.
Once again, this latest instalment in the series has left me with a lovely warm feeling inside and a keen anticipation for the release of the next book.
After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.
Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.
Read an excerpt.
Other books in this series: