Monday, May 23, 2016

Review of The Blood Strand by Chris Ould (Titan Books, 2016)

Jan Reyna left the Faroes as child when his mother fled from his father.  A couple of decades later, Reyna is a British police detective, his mother is long dead, and his father is found unconscious in a car, along with a shotgun, a large sum of money, and someone else’s blood.  Reyna is persuaded by his aunt to head to the Faroes to see about reconciliation before it’s too late.  Reyna arrives with a stack of unresolved questions about his parent’s past and rift, but he’s soon drawn into a more contemporary mystery with the discovery of a young man’s body on a beach.  The case is being handled by local detective Hjalti Hentze, who turns to Reyna for help, and the prime suspect is Reyna’s father.  Together Reyna and Hjalti stoically investigate the case, while Reyna also seeks to find out more about his family and past.

The Blood Strand is the first in a new police procedural series set in the Faroes.  It very much has the feel of Scandinavian crime fiction, with its low key and realist telling and emphasis on place and family.  The tale tells the story of British detective Jan Reyna’s return to the islands he left as a child and his contribution to a murder investigation in which is father is a suspect.  Reyna’s outsider status enables Ould to introduce both the character and reader to Faroes landscape and community, with local detective Hjalti Hentze and his cousin Frida Solsker, a counsellor, acting as guides.  The characterisation is nicely done, with Reyna and Hentze both being strong, thoughtful, silent, pragmatic types, who cut through politics to get the job done.  The story unfolds at a steady pace, with Ould carefully stitching together the two main plot lines – Reyna’s reluctant quest to find out more about his family and the investigation into the murder of a local man – and working in plenty of clues and doubts, and feints and twists towards the end, and a nice denouement.  I was never quite convinced that the Faroes police would engage so thoroughly with a visiting British police officer whose father is heavily implicated in the death, but Ould makes the premise just about plausible.  Overall, a strong start to the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next, The Killing Bay, due for publication in 2017.

1 comment:

Icewineanne said...

This sounds terrific. I reserved a copy right after reading your column. Many thanks for a great detailed review & for introducing me to this new author.