Paul E. Hardisty’s Claymore Straker series has been a triumph for Orenda Books. I have enjoyed reading the books so far in that series immensely, so I was excited and intrigued to hear that Hardisty was writing a novel that wasn’t in this series. Here’s the blurb:
A bewitching, powerful and deeply moving story of love, loss and grief. This extraordinary departure from the critically acclaimed thriller writer Paul E Hardisty explores the indelible damage we can do to those closest to us, the tragedy of history repeating itself and ultimately, the power of redemption in a time of change. Paul drew on his own experiences of travelling around the world as an engineer, from the dangerous deserts of Yemen, the oil rigs of Texas, the wild rivers of Africa, to the stunning coral cays of the Caribbean.
Ethan Scofield returns to the place of his birth to bury his father, with whom he had a difficult relationship. Whilst clearing out the old man’s house, he finds a strange manuscript, a collection of vignettes and stories that cover the whole of his father’s turbulent and restless life.
As his own life unravels before him, Ethan works his way through the manuscript, searching for answers to the mysteries that have plagued him since he was a child. What happened to his little brother? Why was his mother taken from him? And why, in the end, when there was no one left for him, did his own father push him away?
The blurb itself would have been enough to encourage me to read this novel. The premise is intriguing, thought-provoking and mysterious. Hardisty writes with such intellect and brings his own personal career experiences into his novels that you feel much more educated after reading.
Like Claymore Straker, Ethan and his dad, Warren, are troubled souls. Their lives prior to the present day of the novel have been that fraught with challenges and traumatic experiences that it is not difficult to see why Ethan feels like he is misplaced. It is clear that “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” but the novel explores if that is as a result of Warren’s behaviour and experiences before and during Ethan’s childhood, or if Ethan has made his own path.
The narrative structure serves the premise well, with Warren’s manuscript of stories that detail pivotal points in his life interspersed with Ethan’s take on how his own life is progressing (or not), and of his relationship with his Dad before and after the illuminating manuscript. Like many Orenda Books novels, it strays from a linear narrative which increases the tension and keeps the reader guessing.
Like with the Claymore Straker novels, Hardisty beautifully describes the variety of locations that both Ethan and Warren find themselves in. His narrative is rich in stunning, figurative language that is intertwined into the story to make the reader feel (or at least, wish) they are in these gorgeous locations.
Hardisty does not disappoint with this beautifully written novel. With diverse characters and a variety of sumptuous settings, this, like many other Orenda Books, is a work of art. I would recommend any Hardisty novel, but this one in particular is a beauty.