Tahlia Newland's Reviews > Matinicus -- An Island Mystery

Matinicus --  An Island Mystery by Darcy Scott
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Jun 16, 12

bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Read in June, 2012

This is a terrific, well written mystery with richly drawn characters and a surprising and thought provoking conclusion. Matinicus is one of those stories that, like the subtle flavours of an excellent meal, stays with you long after it ends.

I found it a little slow to start, but that is probably because I usually read young adult books where major action generally starts early in the story. Here, we take time to get to know Gil, the main character, and the others on the island. They’re a motley crew, lobster fishermen united by their island birth and long family history there. Gil is an outsider, a summer tourist but tolerated because he’s been there before and is a good bloke. His collection of baseball cards in particular endears him towards the owner of the local food and drink establishment and they strike up a friendship.

The island is so well described (and never over done) that I could almost smell the ocean and feel myself on the path between Racheal’s house, where Gil is staying, and the town. He’s staying there alone, apart from the ghost that inhabits the upper floor. I loved the vividly written scene where the ghost appears and Gil stumbles out of the house.

There are many layers to this novel which links the modern day and the time of the ghost through a diary that Gil finds in the house. The diary is written by a teenager with a dodgy past who has been forced to marry a widower and take on the care of his children while he sails off to fish. When people start dying in strange circumstances, Gil begins to wonder if the ghost is trying to tell him something, but what? Who is responsible for these deaths and what has it got to do with the past?

The islanders are an insulated lot who take care of their own business with little input or interference from the mainland, and it is this that as the book nears its conclusion, raises questions about justice and leaves Gil with a difficult moral decision. We are forced to consider whether he did the right thing and wonder if we would do the same under the circumstances. This theme gives the book a depth that many books lack.

The ending has a great twist. I didn’t see it coming and like all good mysteries, once you know, in hindsight it all falls together beautifully. This isn’t a fast paced novel, it builds at an easy pace which allows you to really enjoy the world and the characters. Gil’s growing insight into himself and his struggle with his addiction to risky women adds further depth and excellent character development.
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