Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Isle of Man Murder Mystery a Creepy, Compelling Thriller

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Hop-tu-naa, the Manx version of Halloween, is supposed to be a day of innocent, spooky fun.  And it is.  Until the year a woman vanishes from the Isle of Man on Hop-tu-naa, leaving behind her mystified husband and their 8-year-old daughter.  Questions about the unsolved case abound—did the woman abandon her family on purpose?  Does her husband know more than he's saying?  What really happened to Mrs. Cooper?    

Still haunted by the disappearance of her mother six years ago, Claire Cooper never looks forward to Hop-tu-naa.  When a gang of popular kids invites the shy, broody 14-year-old to join them on their annual Hop dare night adventure, she can't believe it.  Apprehensive but grateful to be included, she accepts.  Every year afterward, the group gathers for Halloween hijinks.  Until one of their pranks goes horribly awry, changing the kids' lives forever. 
  
At 25, Claire is no longer the timid, awkward girl she once was.  She's a detective constable and a tougher, wiser, more cynical woman because of it.  When a member of her old Hop dare gang dies under suspicious circumstances on Hop-tu-naa, Claire's called in to investigate.  A second death exactly a year later makes it clear that someone is deliberately and determinedly picking the gang off one by one.  Who?  Why?  And what, if anything, do these killings have to do with Mrs. Cooper's long-ago disappearance?  The more Claire digs into the past, the closer she comes to finding the answers she seeks.  But with every passing Hop-tu-naa, she's creeping closer to something else as well—her own "accidental" death.  Can she find the murderer in time to save herself?  Or will her own demise become just another unexplained Hop-tu-naa tragedy?

Thrillers with exotic, atmospheric settings always interest me, so when I heard about Dark Tides by British crime writer Chris Ewan, I knew I had to read it.  It didn't disappoint.  The Isle of Man is a place I know little about, so I especially enjoyed learning more about its unique people and customs.  The And Then There Were None-type plot makes the story especially compelling, as does the fast, almost choppy pace of its prose.  The Hop-tu-naa aspect definitely gives the novel a tense, shivery vibe that ups the suspense factor.  Although I did have the murderer pegged pretty early on in the story, it didn't detract from my reading enjoyment as I wasn't completely sure I was right until the very end of the story.  I had a few issues with this one, but overall, I found it to be an engrossing page-turner that kept me up reading long, long after I should have been in bed.

(Readalikes: Reminded me of And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and Ten by Gretchen McNeil)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, depictions of underage drinking, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

6 comments:

  1. I rarely find books where I don't see the mystery coming a mile away. I still usually enjoy them but it would be fun to be surprised more often.

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    1. Really? I'm pretty gullible, so I generally fall for every red herring the author throws at me. If I can figure out the bad guy/girl early on, it must be pretty obvious!

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  2. I like the sound of this one, mostly for the setting. And the nod to A. Christie's And Then There Were None (which is the first Christie mystery I ever read).

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    1. Obviously not as well done as Agatha Christie's masterpiece but a compelling device nonetheless!

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  3. This one sounds pretty good. I think I'll add it to my wishlist. Great review!

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  4. Ohh sounds intriguing! I love a good mystery. Wonderful review.

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