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The Last Refuge Hardcover – 1 June 2014
When John Callum arrives on the wild and desolate Faroe Islands, he vows to sever all ties with his previous life. He desperately wants to make a new start, and is surprised by how quickly he is welcomed into the close-knit community. But still, the terrifying, debilitating nightmares just won't stop.
Then the solitude is shattered by an almost unheard of crime on the islands: murder. A specialist team of detectives arrives from Denmark to help the local police, who seem completely ill-equipped for an investigation of this scale. But as tensions rise, and the community closes rank to protect its own, John has to watch his back.
But far more disquieting than that, John's nightmares have taken an even more disturbing turn, and he can't be certain about the one thing he needs to know above all else. Whether he is the killer…
About the Author
- Publisher : Simon & Schuster UK (1 June 2014)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1471127737
- ISBN-13 : 978-1471127731
- Dimensions : 16.2 x 2.8 x 22.8 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Where I'm struggling with crime novels these days is that, if I can't like the main character, why would I want to spend time in his/her company? Callum is a violent drunk, with no redeeming features and no moral justification for his actions. Sometimes a bad guy can be interesting or entertaining, but I fear Callum is neither. I wouldn't spend ten minutes with him in real life and my antipathy towards him meant I didn't care whether he was the murderer or not – his actions justified a long prison sentence regardless of whether he was guilty or innocent of the main crime. And yet, despite him being a violent drunk with a shady past, living in a shack, suspected of murder, penniless and with no obvious future prospects, we supposed to believe that an intelligent, successful professional woman would be romantically interested in him. We're not talking about 17-year-olds here, where 'bad boy' syndrome might apply – we're talking about mature, nearly middle-aged adults. But with Callum we are supposed to believe that not one, but two, women find him attractive – standards on the Faroe Islands must be pretty low.
Having got that out of my system, there are some positives. The descriptive writing is great – Robertson brings this isolated weather-beaten community to life. In fact, the writing overall is well above average standards for current crime fiction. From the start, when Robertson describes the flight over and Callum's first impressions of the islands, I thought I was in for a real treat, and the sense of place that he creates kept me hooked even after I had grown to dislike Callum himself. While many of the characters are unlikeable, they are well-drawn and credible (if you exclude the women's strange romantic proclivities). There is a good deal of laziness in the plotting at points – unlikely, even near-miraculous, things happen and the how of them is never explained. I'm not suggesting a mystical element, there's none of that, thank goodness. Just “and then he escaped” type of thing, with no explanation of how. But while the plotting leaves much to be desired in terms of credibility, the story flows along and holds the interest for the most part.
So, despite the unlikeable protagonist and the plot problems, the quality of the writing and excellent sense of place still lifts it above the average contemporary crime novel. Though I appreciate I'm damning it with faint praise...
The plot is beautifully crafted. John Callum, an ex-schoolteacher from Glasgow, with a dark secret, tries to escape his demons by relocating to a remote archipelago in the north Atlantic. A place where no-one knows him or anything about his past. Of course, life is never that simple and, after settling into a menial job and getting involved with a local girl, he becomes the number one suspect in a murder case. The trouble is, even he's not sure if he did it or not.
I loved the atmosphere of this book. The descriptions of the Faroes are enough to give a real sense of place, the bleakness and beauty of it, without overdoing it. The politics and culture are cleverly woven into the plot, adding to the drama and the interest. The tension is notched up carefully through the excellent layering in of the various characters and the slow reveal of the main protagonist's past and why it is affecting him now. The strong dialogue helps make the interaction between characters more believable. Most of all, thanks to some very clever work on the part of the author, the ending is fantastic - tense, dramatic and surprising.
If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten track from your usual crime thriller, I would highly recommend this. Superb stuff.
An excellent read that has you walking the streets of Torshavn as you follow Callum's tortured soul amidst the overpowering Faroe climate.