C.A. Fletcher (Hachette Australia: Orbit) 2022, 501pp, RRP $49.99 (hardback); $32.99 (paperback); $15.99 (e-Book); $39.99 (audiobook)

Fletcher’s follow-up to A Boy And His Dog At The End Of The World is more epic at 501 pages, which allows plenty of room for a large cast of characters on a tourist-friendly island off the west coast of Scotland to come together (or not) to fight off a folk-horror-ish ancient curse.

Calling to mind something like Stephen King’s classic The Stand (albeit on a smaller scale), this spends almost half the book setting up the characters and the impending supernatural menace, so when it finally kicks in, it REALLY kicks in.

The first person we meet here is traumatised widow Sig, who loves the island’s isolation and isn’t too happy about an impending visit from her wheelchair-bound niece, but there are so many others here: a voyeuristic pensioner; a gay fisherman; a visiting family with parents on the verge of splitting up; a pair of electricians, the dimmer of whom ensures that the island is blacked-out at exactly the wrong time; and still more.

A longtime resident in her late 80s is the one who discovers that something terrible is afoot, and her fate when she realises that she’s soon to become part of the “walking water” is pretty heartbreaking. And yet we care for almost all of Fletcher’s characters, no matter how flawed they might be, or how ever-so-slightly overwritten the author might get.

Perhaps (again, like Stephen King) in need of a bit of an edit, this is nevertheless mostly very readable, with a hugely exciting final hundred or so pages making up for just a little flab in the middle.

And yes, it’s just screaming to be made into a movie or Netflix series starring, say, Keira Knightley as Sig. No, really: her involvement would ensure that the project wasn’t dead in the water.

Dave Bradley

This title is available through the Hachette Australia website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.

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