Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton
Simon & Schuster: 2/11/20
eBook review copy; 312 pages
ISBN-13: 9781950691340

Thunder Bay by Douglas Skelton is a very highly recommended atmospheric mystery/thriller.

Scottish reporter Rebecca Connolly learns that suspected murderer Roddie Drummond will be returning to the Hebridean island of Stoirm to attend his mother's funeral. Fifteen years earlier his girlfriend Mhairi was murdered, and, even though he was not convicted, Roddie is guilty in the eyes of many islanders. He left the island immediately after the trial and hasn't been back since. His return will certainly stir up resentments and trouble. Rebecca has other, personal, reasons for wanting to visit the island so she goes ahead and travels there in defiance of her editor. She is looking into both the story of Mhairi's murder and her own family history.

Thunder Bay is a beautifully written mystery/thriller. Skelton introduces the large cast of characters via their interactions in the local social structure as Rebecca begins her investigation. All the characters are complex and well-developed, and the island, "it's an island thing," is as much a character as the people in this atmospheric mystery.  Secrets abound on the island. Rebecca's interactions and the answers she receives to the questions she is asking perfectly captures the social culture and setting.

As the plot advances, the information Rebecca is uncovering begins to create a tension. This tension increases and builds incrementally until it is palpable. The hostility and unease she experiences is from both her investigation of the murder, as well as questions about her family's history on the island. As in any closed, tightly knit community, there are secrets and resentments that people have kept hidden. Skelton uses flashbacks to enhance the plot and tell some of the backstory. I enjoyed this novel immensely, but have to admit that I was disappointed with the reveal of the secret that made Rebecca's father leave the island forever.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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