The Sound of Whales
By Kerr Thomson
Published by Chicken House
ISBN 978 1 910002 27 8
One of the pleasures of settling down with a good book is when the author takes you off to a place you might have heard of but know nothing about. Setting is important in every story, but in some books the place where the story unfolds becomes a character itself. This is the case with Kerr Thomson’s adventure, The Sound Of Whales.
The story takes place on Nin, a remote island off the north coast of Scotland, where the islanders make their living from the sea that batters the shore of their home.
The few young people on the island have to be shipped to the bigger Isle of Skye for school, but now it’s summer and Fraser Dunbar has to fill his time as best he can. Nin is not the most exciting of places, and the long, light, summer days can seem never ending. But this summer is not going to be like the rest for Fraser.
The seas around Nin are the home to various species of whale, and Fraser is helping Dr Ben McCaig, a marine biology professor, with some of his research. The opening scene of the novel where Ben and Fraser return to Nin in a violent storm from a day out at sea is one of the most thrilling beginnings you are likely to ever read in a novel. Thomson’s writing is so good that readers might feel a bit queasy as McCaig and Fraser’s boat finally gets into port.
Debut author Thomson knows how to plot a mystery that starts slowly and builds up to a terrific climax. Fraser and Hayley, an American girl staying on the island, discover a man’s corpse on the beach, and find themselves caught up in an undercover criminal racket that seems impossible on a peaceful place like Nin.
How involved is Fraser’s brother, Dunny, who doesn’t speak but who seems to know more than is good for him and his family? And just
what is McCaig really doing on the island?
Thomson does a fantastic job of immersing the reader in the landscape, and weaving his mystery around poetic descriptions and snippets of island culture. The three characters who drive the plot have interesting personalities, and the shifting relationships between them are always believable.
And then there is the sea, ever changing and full of challenges. The Sound Of Whales is a story of friendship, of nature and of the terrible things some human beings do to others.
This is a thrillingly original first novel and definitely one not to be missed by readers looking for a mystery set against an atmospheric backdrop of untamed nature and wild, wild seas that conceal deep and dangerous secrets.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com