*I received a free copy of this book, with thanks to the author. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: From the acclaimed author of The Drago Tree comes a riveting thriller about survival, revenge and long-hidden secrets.
When local Lanzarote anti-corruption activist, Celestino, is T-boned on a lonely stretch of road, he knows the collision was no accident.
Wounded and fearing for his life, he hides in an abandoned fishing village, waiting for a chance to make it home. Meanwhile his wife, English expat Paula, is distraught. Her pursuit of answers is deflected when her neighbor, troublesome retiree Shirley Mobad, co-opts Paula on her escapades around the Canary Islands.
Paula’s search for her husband quickly descends into mayhem, danger and intrigue. Before long, she realizes she’s being followed. She needs answers, and fast.
But where is Celestino, and will he ever make it back alive?
This is a slow-paced thriller, which is less focused on the mystery and danger, and instead revolves around the particulars of the unique setting, and the exploration of character relationships with each other and with the island they live on.
Lanzarote is so prominent in the text that it is almost the main character. In addition to capturing the atmosphere and aesthetic of the land, the author is exploring ideas of nation and culture. Lanzarote’s infrastructure and economy are turning increasingly to tourism and – to the great anger of Celestino – the resultant culture involves a liberal greasing of the political cogs, leaving locals, their history and environment shunted to the sidelines spinning their wheels helplessly.
The inability for Celestino (and his friends in the resistance) to derail these shady dealings on their own is mirrored in Paula’s struggle to retain focus on her husband’s disappearance in the face of distractions from other ex-pats (each with their own self-centred, blinkered goal) and a flurry of peripheral events that keep her in a constant state of helpless inaction. Direct actions that seem logical to the reader are dismissed by Paula as she instead flits from person to person, place to place, trying to grasp a meaning from the threads dangled before her.
But then, the reader has inside information that isn’t available to Paula. We know where her husband is. We also know how he is, what happened to him, and some of why. The story is told mainly from Paula’s perspective as she searches, but we also get intermittent chapters from Celestino as he struggles to survive and return.
Whilst there is a thriller/mystery element to this story, it is not the main theme, which is the despoiling of local environment and ecology by the tourism trade, but also the richness and variety of Lanzarote, place and people. For those who enjoy their stories drenched in a strong sense of setting and culture, this is a fascinating insight into what lies behind the scenes of the ‘tourist trap’.
I was on my way to the party when the impact occurred.
That stretch of road is narrow and flanked by dry stone walls. Drivers shouldn’t put their foot down, but enjoying the lack of hairpin bends, they do. I didn’t see the vehicle that ran me off the road at the intersection and slammed my car into a wall. No, I definitely didn’t see it coming.
– Isobel Blackthorn, A Matter of Latitude