Do you believe in Fate? Would you recognize it if it was happening to you? Then you’ll want to meet Toronto PR guru Claire Chandler. She grew up convinced greatness awaited her. Why else had she survived a series of bizarre childhood tragedies? Yet she doesn’t see what’s coming when she journeys north on a long weekend in August to Bay Harbour, a post-card pretty tourist town on the edge of Canada’s popular Georgian Bay vacationlands. She thinks she’s there to reconnect with a former mentor. But Chandler’s chilling affinity for the “unnatural and unexplained”, a macabre “gift” that once made her a freak of nature to classmates, will make her a force of Nature. Shadowed by a ghostly white wolf and haunted by the victims of a long-dead killer, she’ll discover a startling new ending to a fifty year-old mystery. She’ll also discover romance with Tom Katz, an affable, treasure-hunting bush pilot with a reputation for living up to his name. They’re an unlikely pair and Chandler thinks it’s just a summer fling. Instead, a series of white-knuckle adventures will bring them to a time, a place and a choice that will forever link their lives.
Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.
There are many things to enjoy about McEwen’s story. It is compelling without being over the top, it has mystery and romance, there are puzzles to solve and unexplained phenomenons, all blended into a relatively normal series of events and narrative.
The narrative is well written, there is a great tone and voice that really suits this type of story. The pacing is excellent, the gradual revealing of new information and clues you don’t know are clues are part of its charm and makes for an entertaining read.
From a seemingly normal enough beginning it soon delves into a story about a possible curse, a horrific past, life in a dying coastal town, and mysteries beyond total comprehension. The ‘ghost story’ element is balanced well with the real and McEwen combines the two naturally and in a wonderful mystical way that makes it border on the realm of possibility.
The characters are interesting and don’t take over control of the story with their own personal problems. They each share the space and manoeuvre around the greater narrative, not even always playing that great of a role, but existing around it. So often there are times in which the story could deviate but McEwen always keeps the main story on track, connecting everything to it rather than having side stories; a clever approach and one that works remarkably well.
For all the mystery and unexplained there is quite a strong believability about this. Relationships are real, connections feel genuine, even the strange occurrences have been explained and placed in such a way it is plausible within the realm of belief and who each character has been portrayed to be. Claire is the first mystery, surviving against the odds numerous times and having an unexplained gift. It is this gift that brings Claire to the coastal town, and during her stay it proves useful on more than one occasion.
The narrative follows Claire’s time in the town, staying with an old friend, but she is not the only perspective we see. With narration from numerous characters a wider picture is shown, opening up the mystery slightly and giving us a better sense of the people and the town.
One thing I did enjoy was how McEwen developed this story, gradually changing focus and making it appear to go in a few directions, telling everyone’s story while never truly straying. Claire’s terrible secret isn’t the main focus like you think, certain characters don’t take focus like you think they will; there are numerous moments that could have been a key factor but McEwen instead uses these as background to the main issue. In doing so this adds to the realism and believable nature, it is just life going on, albeit alongside a greater mystery and unnatural phenomenon.
A strength of this story is as it progresses you are able to see people grow up, you see them have realisations, make changes in their lives, and sort out who they are and what they want to do. This I think is why the ending is also as strong as it is, wrongs have been set right (as much as they can be in the real world), people have their own form of closure and comfort and it is hard to feel dissatisfied even with an ending like that where you wiah you could have just one more answer.
With a story that combines the paranormal and reality it can be hard to make it seem real, however I think McEwen has done a wonderful job in mixing the two. Taking the spiritual approach rather than straight supernatural was a clever idea and one that makes the events of the story much stronger and powerful.
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