TL;DR – a brilliant suspenseful tale of two women and the lengths they go to for the ones that they love. If you like crime mysteries, this is a must read.
Grief-stricken Kate (the widow) discovers her husband led a life unknown to her. Abby (the wife) lives on a tourist island and is confronted with the prospect that her husband is a murderer. Both seek to uncover the secrets of the men in their lives and in the process discover not everything is what it seems.
Christian White has written a crime fiction novel that will have you turning every page with an eagerness to reach the destination. When you get there, you will be filled with awe.
Or in my case, filled with an intense desire to throw my keyboard out the window and give up on writing for I was stunned that someone could write like this. The prose is eminently readable and the female leads are both vivid and convincing.
Kate Keddie is a Melbourne city woman waiting for her husband, John, at the airport. Her young daughter, Mia, bounces excitedly next to her seeking minute-by-minute updates. When the plane from London finally lands and passengers start emerging through the exit doors into the arrivals lounge, the atmosphere is filled with the anticipation that comes from a collective group of people waiting to spot their family or friends returning from faraway. But when John doesn’t emerge, the excitement is filled with a sudden dread. Kate checks she hasn’t missed any calls, texts or emails from her husband telling her that he missed the flight. Nothing on any of the channels. When later, Kate phones Trinity Health Centre for Palliative Care, where John works as a physician, she expects they would know of any news from her husband since they were the ones who sent John to the medical conference in London in the first place. That’s when she discovers, John hasn’t worked at the health centre for three months…
Abby Gilpin is married to Ray and has two teenage kids in Lori and Eddie. They all live on Belport Island, a holiday destination for the city folk. Abby is a dutiful wife, caring mother, loves reading true crime stories, and works at the local supermarket. Her husband Ray runs a business called Island Care, which provides cleaning and maintenance services to home owners. When a body is found on the island and it all points to murder, Abby becomes as intrigued as the rest of the locals until her world starts turning upside down when she begins to suspect Ray is involved.
White is skilled in throwing the reader right into the thick of it, and I found myself investing in the dilemmas of Kate and Abby and following their paths until they eventually cross. He also introduces a third, silent character that is every bit as important as the two main protagonists – Belport Island.
In summer, Belport Island is a tourist hot spot. Only a ferry ride from the mainland, it serves as the perfect place to getaway from the big smoke and city grind.
In winter, Belport Island is a ghost town. The locals rely heavily on the summer peak season to eke out an income, but most of the businesses close during the winter.
White captures the malaise that festers across Belport during the frigid months, and the love/hate dependency the locals have on rich city folk coming to their town. The island is a reflection of this attitude when tourists vacate after summer break is over and the cold settles in leaving the locals to fend for themselves. Everything feels harsher. The rocky shores look sharper, the currents of the sea more treacherous, the holiday homes empty and lifeless, and the streets sapped of warmth beneath steel grey skies.
Belport Island is the perfect setting, the perfect silent character, that weighs down on the minds of Kate and Abby as they each search for the truth about the men in their lives.
One of the best reads I’ve experienced in a very long time. Damn you, Christian White, damn you.
5 out of 5.