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17 September 2015

Blog Tour: 'Orkney Twilight' by Clare Carson

Jim is an undercover policeman with alcohol issues and the gift of the gab - but he never talks about his past. His daughter Sam is a rebellious eighteen-year-old with an inquisitive streak. She is determined to find out the truth about her father.

On holiday in Orkney, beneath an endless midsummer sky, eighteen year old Sam shadows her father Jim as he runs secretive errands across the island. What did he take from the old watchtower on the edge of a cliff? Why is he so interested in Norse mythology? And why does Sam have the eerie feeling that she too is being shadowed? When Sam finally discovers the truth, it will draw her into a dangerous world of deception and double-dealing... and bring her closer to her dad than ever before.

Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for a novel that's slightly different from my usual reads, namely Clare Carson's debut novel 'Orkney Twilight'! When I was contacted with a review request by the lovely people from Head of Zeus, I thought it would be good to once again dive into another genre than what I usually read, in this case a promising thriller. The paperback version of 'Orkney Twilight' was released on the 10th of September and it's a book that straight away intrigued me with its blurb and cover. Next to my review, I also have a special guest post from Clare Carson herself to share with all of you, as part of the blog tour, so be sure to not miss it and scroll down!

Sam is quite the rebellious eighteen-year-old, growing up in 1980s London, who occasionally takes part in protests and hangs around with her friends until it's time for her to go to university. Her father, Jim, is an undercover policeman and Sam has never had a great relationship with him. So, when she finds herself joining him on a trip to Orkney, where they spent quite a few family holidays when she was younger, she isn't quite sure what to expect. When Jim starts running secret errands on the island, Sam can't help but be intrigued. Yet, she has no idea what she is getting herself into before it's too late and there's no way back.

'Orkney Twilight' is author Clare Carson's debut novel and quite a promising one. The story is set in both 1980s London and the beautiful coastlines of Scotland, resulting in a mix of both city and rural. The author really managed to use the setting and the weather to create a specific atmosphere for this novel, which, combined with a third-person narrative that didn't include too much emotion, was perfect for an intriguing thriller. I didn't particularly warm to any of the candidates, but I was fascinated by both Sam and Jim; as individuals but also the father-daughter relationship between the two of them. While the reader is given some background information, I wouldn't have minded learning even more about the characters and how they got to where they are now.

I have to admit the novel didn't engage me as much as I initially thought it would, which was a shame. The story is quite slow-paced and complex but without a build-up to an exciting ending, which I usually expect from a thriller. I was impressed by the author's own voice and writing style, though, and the way in which she managed to connect her use of words with the setting and atmosphere of the story. So, while I did struggle a bit at times, I still enjoyed it and look forward to hopefully reading more of Clare Carson's work in the future. Overall, 'Orkney Twilight' is an intriguing and quite mysterious read; worth to pick up for thriller fans or if you're into Norse myths and history. Not 100% my cup of tea, but undoubtedly a read many others will enjoy!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Special Guest Post from Clare Carson!

Finding the narrator’s voice in Orkney Twilight 

First person or third person – which is best? It depends, I suppose, as do most things, on what you are trying to achieve. Coming-of-age stories, for example, are often written in the first person. To Kill a Mockingbird is the classic. The directness of the first person lends itself to teenage narrators, and the limited view suits the revelation of the loss of innocence. My protagonist, Sam, is the teenage daughter of an undercover agent. When I started writing  Orkney Twilight I had her as a first person narrator. But it didn’t feel right. Sam is the daughter of a spy and, as her father points out, she is a good observer. She watches her dad and picks up his habits.  She assesses people from a distance, has learned to be wary, not to give too much away.  Her story is not so much about loss of innocence as understanding the information she has already acquired and working out what to do with it. 

So I decided that Sam’s character and emotional colour were at odds with the directness of the first-person narrator. I switched to the third person, and her voice fell into place. A third-person narrator is detached, almost floating free. Like Sam.  She goes on holiday with a friend who is a trainee journalist and her father, both of whom are observers by profession. But she is the one taking the notes for this story. She watches the action – and herself – with some flippancy, anger and bemusement, processes it in her head and then tells the tale the way she wants it told. 

Sam’s feelings are not always directly voiced, but are there in the way she relates to the landscape and nature. Her moments of emotion are restrained. Like an old style spy thriller, Orkney Twilight deals with issues of empathy and betrayal. And like an old style spy, Sam plays her cards close to her chest.

Thanks so much, Clare!

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