Michael is a cop who, after seeing yet another young person brutally massacred, breaks down. He beats up a suspect (read: guilty as sin) and quits his job, or risk losing what’s left of his sanity. He ends up restoring his recently deceased father’s house and house boat in Trowchester, a small town in Britain. Michael’s father was a cruel individual, always berating and downright mean, just for fun, so there’s no love lost between them. The house is filled with the ghosts of the past.
Walking around town, Michael comes across a bookshop, owned by a charming man, Fintan. Unbeknownst to Michael, in the past Finn was a fence for art, books, and antiquities. His experience with the prison system has left him a renewed man, clinging desperately to the desire to be an honest one. But the past keeps busting through his door, leaving him stuck between a rock and a hard place. Being with Michael, an ex-cop with a hefty weight of baggage, is at times a blessing and a curse. But which will it be in the long run—if Finn survives that long?
This is not by any means light reading. Heavy issues are dealt with in these pages, such as a cop who has seen far, far too much and all but loses his mind over the horrors he’s seen. To Michael, every person in the streets appears as either a victim or a villain. Finn is bookshop owner who made mistakes in his reckless youth, which earned him a criminal record and a terrible need to bury the past for good. Not being able to cope with one’s life and desperately searching for a change and a means out of the rut and out of the path of dangers are the main themes here, and they make the story heavy and hard to deal with.
Though skillfully written, the pace is awfully slow and the book is filled with descriptions of every little detail of the world, its inhabitants, surroundings, possessions, moods, the lot. It can get a little daunting. I think the author was trying to create a certain mood, a weight and lassitude, and in that she has succeeded. A great deal of the inner workings of people is given, and that gives us valuable insight into our (anti)heroes.
As for the side characters, there’s a clear separation between the good—the Li family, Sarah, Jenny—and the bad—Briggs, Benny, and Lisa—so it’s only the heroes who have depth enough to justify their characters’ personality shifts. Lady Harcombe in particular is a nasty piece of work. I detested her with every fiber of my being. It’s people like her who deserve to be imprisoned. She’s supposed to be the chief magistrate of the district, and she behaves like a lowly thug and a mob queen? No. Just no.
I wish I had been more taken with this story than I was. This is a personal opinion, mind you, so just because I felt little warmth over any of the characters and the insane plot twists, that doesn’t mean other will regard this in the same light as I did. This was good, but it it didn’t blow my socks off. At times this was humorous and light, at other times dead-serious and somber. The tone, for me, felt constantly slightly off, as in off the mark. But though my personal preference wasn’t for this story, there was nothing intrinsically wrong with it, hence the higher rating.