Thursday, 22 December 2016
You know when you read a review and think, 'I've simply got to read this book'? From the start, I was engrossed ... and then somehow it all went wrong, and dragged on too slowly, and I slightly lost interest. I kept reading, waiting for a twist/revelation that wasn't coming. What a shame, because there's so much to love in this - what should I call it? - historical why-dunnit? I was intrigued from the start by the similarity between the author's name and the protagonist. (but that's just a bit of tricksiness.) There is a wonderful sense of location - historical and geographical - in the Scottish highlands where life seems nasty. brutish and short, in thrall to the laird and his pecking order of representatives, the factor and the thuggish local constable. It is 1869. A crofter's 17yo son commits a bloody triple murder and doesn't attempt to deny it. The novel comprises a prison memoir written at the behest of his lawyer who is trying to plead insanity, followed by other documents: medical opinion, witness statements, newspaper reports of the trial. But I did find myself wishing that we could move along a bit faster. And I didn't quite believe that the doltish boy would really have written the articulate, sensitive memoir.