Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Read in 2015 - 31: The House of the Wicked

This was my second read by D. M. Mitchell. My first one was "Max", reviewed here in September. While I did find "Max" a good overall read, this book was better.
There were more layers, more characters, a more complex plot behind it all, and I kept guessing (sometimes right, but by no means all of it) until the very end.

The setting is a small fishing village on the Welsh coast, although we are briefly taken back several times to events in France and England.
The year of the main narrative is 1880, but developments which began centuries before and more recent happenings from 13 years ago are at the base of present events.

When a young painter out of the blue receives an invitation by a friend he has not seen in years to join him at an unknown, tiny village on the Welsh coast to start an artists' colony there, he has no idea what awaits him at Porthgarrow.

As the characters are introduced, it soon looks as if everyone is following a hidden agenda.
But what or who is at the heart of a nearly unsolvable tangle of love, murder, business interests and superstition?
What does it all have to do with the scene on Porthgarrow's cemetery one stormy night 13 years ago?

I found the book intriguing not just on a rather clever "whodunnit" level. It also deals with change:
The fishing industry has always been the village's only real income. New technologies are being introduced, but people in the village stubbornly stick to their old ways.
The richest owner of fisherboats has the next generation ready to take over the family business but refuses to allow any changes, in spite of economic difficulties.
The village's Reverend is keen on photography and has a scientific approach to things, but struggles against the deeply rooted narrow-mindedness of his flock who believe ancient legends rather than facts.

All these conflicts form part of the story and make people's acts believable.
There wasn't any character I grew particularly fond of, but that wasn't necessary to enjoy the book and wanting to know what was going to happen next.
Editing and proof-reading could have been better but was overall OK.
If I come across another book by this author in the kindle shop, I'll definitely download it.

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