Ilmarsh is a place starved of funds since the demise of the local industries of oil and fish; loss and disappointment hang heavy as the remaining inhabitants, with no future and no hope, become desperate. When Sgt Alec Nichols and forensic vet Dr Cooper Allen join forces to investigate what has happened to the unfortunate beasts, further crimes – disappearances, arson, mutilations – bring long-buried secrets and guilt to light, along with the discovery of a deadly pathogen in the soil, resulting in quarantine. Haunting and very dark, this is certainly worth the read – with the caveat that there are distressing scenes involving animal abuse.
Buchanan portrays a “little empty world” where love is “terrifying” and the locals are “happiest without friends”. His background in scripting video games shows: he’s great at setting scenes and pacing the action but the characterisation is thin. There’s no hint of redemption, revelation or release; there’s a lot of adolescent staring in mirrors. Imagine Agatha Christie rewritten by Samuel Beckett: Waiting for Poirot.