Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
There are two characters in this story: Mark and his six-year-old son, Nathan.
Everyone else: missing wife, police, mother-in-law, criminals, are shades that revolve round the nuclear pair, scarcely more significant than the pilot whales that, throughout the book, try to strand themselves on the shore of the Firth of Forth. It is when photographing the animals that Mark receives a call that his wife has failed to pick up Nathan from school.
From this moment the plot is a slow and tortuous escalation to a frenetic finale. The crime itself is an anti-climax and the preparation portentous in the event. The relationship between father and son is exquisitely portrayed but it belongs in a different kind of novel rather than the gritty thriller this purports to be.
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