Monday 16 January 2017

IREX by Carl Rackman @CarlRackman

4.5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK HERE
On Goodreads HERE

How I discovered this book: I got talking to the author on Twitter, took a look to see what sort of stuff he wrote, decided it looked up my street.  Downloaded via Kindle Unlimited.

This is a debut novel, and a fine achievement it is.  Set in the late 19th Century, it centres around the maiden voyage of tall ship Irex, and good Christian captain Will Hutton.  Although a cargo vessel, the Irex has also taken on a few passengers: the mysterious aristocrat Edward Clarence, and Salavation Army missionaries George and Elizabeth Barstow.

Irex's voyage is ill-fated from the beginning, with a false start, and terrible storms.  Fascinated by his passengers, Hutton begins to become enamoured of Mrs Barstow, and suspicious of Clarence.

The novel alternates between the voyage, and the unravelling of the tragedy of the Irex, in the Isle of Wight, some weeks later.  The book is extremely well-written; Mr Rackman has a fine talent for atmosphere and characterisation, with the plot unfolding slowly ~ until I got to about 34%, when the truth about Clarence was revealed.  This was one of those mouth dropping open moments, and everything suddenly became a lot more interesting.  The plot is unusual, though I don't want to give any of it away because I'd spoil the surprise!  When Hutton looks for support amongst his men he finds himself cast as the villain, and county coroner Blake comes up against the highest authorities in the land.

The pace of the story ebbed and flowed; some parts, like Clarence and Elizabeth's revelations and the descriptions of life on board in a storm to end all storms, were stunningly good.

**Please note: since I wrote this, the author has re-published the book, cutting it by 15k words**
I did think that the book was a bit long-winded; I thought that the alternate investigative chapters could have been shorter and with less detailI found myself hurrying through them because I wanted to get back to the Irex.  I think I'd have preferred it if they'd been every third chapter, perhaps; it was a shame to keep being pulled away from the main story.  The quality of writing never faltered, but on occasion I felt that less would have been more, throughout.  That this is a spectacularly good first novel, there is no doubt, but I think Mr Rackman might do well to find an editor to do his writing justice.

It's the story of good versus evil, faith and delusion, as well as being a grand, seafaring adventure and thrilling murder mystery, and I give it a definite thumbs up.


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