I’m delighted today to be helping launch the blog tour for the latest book from Mary Grand, The Island, and to be sharing my publication day review. Published today by Boldwood Books, it’s now available via Amazon for kindle (and free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
It’s not very often that I dip into the darker side these days, but I’ve been rather looking forward to this one. Mary’s last novel, The House Party, her first for Boldwood, was really so excellent – deliciously claustrophobic with its vividly drawn Isle of Wight setting, layered with secrets, beautifully crafted, character driven, and it really hooked me right through to its unexpected ending (you can read my full review here). I had thought of finally visiting the Isle of Wight this year, but think I might now leave it until next year – but visiting through the pages of Mary’s latest book is more than compensation.
Let’s take a closer look…
The Island – where everyone knows everyone, and secrets are impossible to keep…
‘Be careful, you don’t know them as well as you think. Remember – anyone can kill.’
Juliet has returned to the Isle of Wight from years abroad to visit her sick father and to be reunited with her three sisters – Cassie, a professional musician who seems to have lost her way in life, Mira, who is profoundly deaf, is married to the local vicar but their relationship is falling apart, and Rosalind, glamorous and charming but now deeply unhappy and secretive about her life.
As Juliet’s father lies dying, he issues her with a warning. There is a killer on the loose, and they may be closer than she can ever imagine. He anxiously tells Juliet that he confided a family secret in son-in-law Rhys, and now regrets ever saying a word.
Days later, as the clock strikes one in the morning, a man comes out of Rhys’s church, walks along the path and is run down by a car driven by an unidentified person. When the finger of suspicion points to Juliet, she realises the only way to clear her name is to uncover the secrets her family has been keeping from her for years. But with a killer on the loose, danger is getting closer all the time…
The Island is set on the Isle of Wight – insular, claustrophobic, and where secrets are hard to keep. Mary Grand’s heart-stopping who-dunnits are perfect for fans of Louise Candlish, Agatha Christie and Lucy Foley.
This really was a book that had me hooked from the very beginning, with Juliet returning to the island from her stay in China just in time to visit her father, on his deathbed after a car accident. There’s just enough time for him to tell her some incomplete and tantalising dark secrets from the past, to hint about threat and danger from someone close to home.
We’re then introduced to Juliet’s family – her mother and three sisters – and it soon becomes clear that there are even more layers of secrets than her father was able to reveal. And then there’s another death – a character who perhaps knows more than he should – and Juliet doggedly sets about pursuing the full story, where everyone becomes a suspect, red herrings abound, and the threat to her own safety steadily builds.
The family relationships and all the undercurrents are exceptionally well drawn. Juliet is perhaps closest to Mira, married to vicar Rhys, a gentle soul, sometimes challenged by her deafness – Cassie, the eldest, is rather more distant and a bit on the abrasive side, a gifted violinist whose career has been nurtured by her parents, but now on the verge of a surprising change of direction in partnership with Rhys’ unconventional sister. And then there’s Rosalind, the over-indulged youngest child… they’re all wonderfully drawn and complex characters, and the finger of suspicion points at all of them at different points in the story as we find out more about their secret lives.
This is one of those stories that really gets under your skin, as you share Juliet’s path to uncovering the full story with its surprises in the present day and the echoes from the past. The island setting is integral to the story, and quite beautifully drawn – at first the teeming hordes of holidaymakers, making way for a tight community where everyone knows everyone else’s business, claustrophobic and atmospheric despite the beaches, clifftops and wide open spaces.
I’m not a fan of fast-moving chills and thrills, and found the pacing of this story quite perfect – the tension built deliciously slowly, the characters brought unexpected moments of surprise, and the exchanges between them were fraught with the complexity that only families can bring. Along with Juliet, I found myself desperately trying to unpeel the layers – I did get there a little ahead of her in the end, but that only left me feeling a little smug rather than spoiling the outcome.
I really enjoyed Mary Grand’s last book, but I think this one was even better – driven by its characters with their convoluted relationships but with an intriguing and compelling story steadily unfolding, and some real surprises along the way. I loved this one – very much recommended.
About the author
Mary Grand is the author of five novels and writes gripping, page-turning suspense, with a dark and often murderous underside. She grew up in Wales, was for many years a teacher of deaf children and now lives on the Isle of Wight where her novel, The House Party, which was published by Boldwood in August 2020, is set.