*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and to Emma Welton of damppebbles blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…
Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…
The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.
The Golden Orphans is a short novel, but so packed with suspense and atmosphere that it feels like weighty literature.
Set in Cyprus, mainly in party town Ayia Napa but with a brief incursion into the abandoned ghost town of Famagusta, Gary Raymond has really captured the contradictions of experience inherent when a tourist trap also has a dark history and a simmering present.
The plot presents mystery layered upon mystery: nothing and no one is what they seem, and the characters speak in cryptic riddles and portentous utterances. This, combined with the poetic detail in the description of the setting, lent a heavy dreamlike air to the novel and kept me in tense suspense throughout, as events flowed swiftly past – unrelated and yet intricately interconnected.
I found the blurb a little misleading, as Francis Benthem’s only role in events was as the catalyst that brought our narrator into play, and the painting of dreams, whilst deeply intriguing, plays little part in the investigation (which actually revolves around the protagonist’s casual conversations with locals, along with a hefty dose of his own intuition for anomalies).
Much still remains ambiguous by the end of the story, even as one of the main questions is answered in a shocking twist climax. Even the name of our protagonist narrator remains unknown, and the final word goes to the anonymous clergyman of the beginning with his casual ‘Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown’ style dismissal.
The Golden Orphans is an atmospheric incursion through a dreamlike Cyprus, in search of answers which slip away to be replaced with more questions and confusion. I highly recommend this to anyone who prefers their crime thrillers with a literary style.
He looked me in the eyes, and his were only partially focused, partially glassy, and a little bloodshot, and he said, “I need you to paint. I need this. Francis kept me sane much of the time.” He laughed, and it was light, not at all desperate or reaching. “We would sit on that balcony and talk and drink and then I would come back here to the house and sleep it all off and in the morning I would come back to the tower and he would have that day’s painting for me, and he would often be asleep in the chair or up in the bed by the time I came back, so I would tiptoe around and pick up the painting and take it with me and leave him sleeping. And the next night we would do the same again, and then again, and he would paint and I would take it, and the circle went on.”
“But what did he paint for you, Illie?”
He looked at me fully, the glassiness dissipating in his eyes.
“I want you to paint my dreams,” he said.
– Gary Raymond, The Golden Orphans
The Golden Orphans is available at Amazon and other reputable bookshops right now.
Before you go, don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour (check out the poster below) for more fantastic reviews and content!