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A rich uncanny novel
on 30 September 2012
Mary Jared lives in a remote island in the far north, where the only contact with the outside world is the 'tall men' who come from the mainland to trade. These men, although necessary, are also feared as their arrivals coincide with the disappearance of island boys. When Mary's brother disappears she deploys all her powers (both natural and supernatural) to try and find him. Mary's story is interspersed with that of Morgan, a former mainlander, whose parents are the island's undertakers. Kept a prisoner by her frightened and frightening family, her only escape is into books.
In her debut novel, Jess Richards has created a richly imagined world which although related to ours has a striking social structure and many uncanny features. Much of the book's pleasure lies in these weird details being gradually revealed. Mary and Morgan are strong characters, and I particularly enjoyed Mary's frankness and determination. Overall, however, I felt that the material wasn't as controlled as it could have been, resulting in longueurs and, by the end, a loss of interest in how events would play out.