Reviewed by Paul Woodward
This is Cottamâ€™s fourth novel, a supernatural thriller, and stylistically it reads very easily. The plot starts with a rich white London family who decide to move to a remote part of Cornwall after the teenage son is brutally attacked on a bus by black migrant youths, and is referred to as â€˜white flightâ€™. The novel balances between their London home and the Cornwall location, which has the byline â€˜we always need new blood.â€™
The coastal village of Brodmaw is instantly sickly sweet; for instance the local landowner is several times described as a â€˜rock godâ€™ with long blond hair and the experienced reader knows that this is a cover for old and dark secrets. There are hints of the supernatural early on in their London home; even uncle Mark who babysits whilst the couple are investigating Cornwall is shocked and disturbed.
One drawback is that for a large part of the early novel there is too much of the Greer domestic state, their emotions and responses to each other not obviously related to the dark that will unfold. A minor criticism, this is handled very tidily and reads through quickly but the reader is appealing for more of the supernatural. There are some good passages that work very well, when describing a ghost of 90 years: Madelaineâ€™s voice was the low shriek of the wind over something vast. It was the creak of rigging, the distant moan of a whale.
There is also an engaging motif used of a totemic figure called a â€˜Spookmeister,â€™ which is grim, unforgiving and resolutely unsympathetic. At one point Cottam shows his credentials and provides a neat overview of the supernatural: I think the sea demons pre-date man. I think they are creatures from a pre-historic time before magic and reality became separate and opposed.
And finally the interesting epilogue, a commentary that takes place years later, adds greatly after the climax and gives a suitable sense of closure.