I've now read my very first Kindle book! Author, Steve Emmett, wrote to me to ask if I would care to read and review his debut book, Diavolino. I was about to write back to say that I couldn't because I was, sadly, Kindle-less, when another exact same request arrived. That put a stop to my dilly-dallying over whether or not to get one so I took the plunge and am now a fully paid up member of Clueless Owners of New Technology. Anyway, Steve's book was my first foray into actually reading a book on it.
Tom Lupton is a London based architect, married to Elspeth; they have a five year old daughter, Alice. They are all quite happy and settled in the capital. Then one of Tom's most important clients offers him a chance to build a dream house on a mysterious island on an Italian Lake. Tom and Elspeth are not sure about such a life-changing move but are eventually persuaded by the prospect of a few years in beautiful Italy.
What they find when they get there is a stunningly beautiful setting but a few locals who are not exactly thrilled to see them. Foreigners, it appears, are not welcomed by all. And then little Alice starts 'seeing' things around their temporary home on the island - strange monkish apparitions. No one quite believes the child although both her parents are also experiencing odd happenings.
Things come to a head when Tom and his assitant, Sima, are out excavating around the new build site. It's covered in weird creepers which clutch at you. Tom's attention is distracted and when he turns around Sima is disappearing into the ground and all he can see is her feet. Frantic, he tries to dig her out but the ground is hard and unyielding. What's happened to her? And what is the history of the island which the locals, and especially the mayor, are trying to hide from them? They eventually discover a macabre story which is centuries old... but what has that got to do with Sima's disappearance? They are soon to find out.
There's a really strong sense of place in this story and for me those are the best kind of books. I suppose it's the armchair traveller in me speaking, but if I can be transported by a story to somewhere I have never been and can imagine that place almost as though I had actually been there, then that's good writing. Here's Lake Trasimeno where the book is set:
It's clearly very beautiful indeed - I gather the author lived in the area for quite a while and for me that shows over and over. I really appreciate an author using that kind of local knowledge to full effect.
The story itself... well, it probably wouldn't be for everyone but I enjoyed it. Modern horror is not, to be honest, my forté - I prefer Victorian or Edwardian ghost yarns as there's something about gaslit stories of the macabre that I find utterly thrilling. But I'll give anything a go and this tale with its centuries old background gripped me from the start. I read it in a couple of days and I can't decide whether this was to do with Steve's very readable writing style or the ease of reading on a Kindle where you can choose exactly the font size you need. Both I suspect. Whatever, I found myself racing through it, wanting to find out what happens next as it really is 'edge of the seat' stuff.
My final point is something I'm not quite sure how to phrase. Erm... I find it, shall we say, 'refreshing', when male authors write about men as they really *are*. If you've been married a very long time, as I have, you tend to know these things but it's surprising how many female authors, writing men, don't seem to get it. The reverse is true too of course, many male authors don't write realistic women either, but that's not the point here. Steve's male characters rang very true and 'were' definitely blokes... not watered down versions of the reality.
All in all a good debut novel - creepy, suspenseful, atmospheric and, for me anyway, a lot of fun. And also a nice start to my Kindle reading experience - I'm thrilled with my new toy to be honest and love how pleasant it was to read a book on it. I'm sure it won't replace my proper books but as an additional reading tool it's brilliant.