Young academic sets off on research into long dead poet, whom nobody else rates. Doesn't really sound like the basis for a good story.
Thankfully in Louise Welsh we have one of the finest writers of our age who turns this seemingly unpromising material into an intriguing dark tale of mystery and betrayal.
The story does start in a rather mundane way, with our hero Murray Watson setting off on his research about the poet Archie Luhan. However, although the subject does not appear inspiring the writing does draw one in and Welsh's skill lies in planting the idea in the reader's mind,
"There's something not quite right here".
This sense of unease is what makes this tale so intriguing and also makes the story so convincing. Yes there are twists and surprises, but these are like events in real life rather than the contrivances of so much fiction. Like the hero the reader feels as if something is going to happen, but doesn't know exactly what.
This is a masterful tale beautifully told. I find it impossible to fault Louise Welsh at all. The plot is intriguing, the characters are interesting, the writing is just so beautiful and the evocation of place is right on the button.
This is one of the best novels to emerge from Scotland (or anywhere else for that matter) in many years.
Fans of Louise Welsh will enjoy this new treat and it is a great place to start for those who have not yet discovered this great writer.