Source: I bought this book at Blackwell's
Faber & Faber, October 2014
Hardback, 448 pages
Presumably aimed at the Hallowe'en market, this book follows events taking placed among a group of six friends on 31 October - Hop-tu-Naa on the Isle of Man which we're told is the local version of Hallowe'en. Early on, we get a glimpse of a mother determined to inculcate the local traditions in her daughter, though I couldn't for the life of me see much difference (or any, really) between these and the wider trick-or-treating of the English speaking world.
What is different here is the private rite of the six friends, who adopt the habit of a yearly dare on that night itself, taking turns to specify what is to be done. Of course, the dares become more complicated - and more dangerous - and they become especially personal to Claire, whose mother vanished years before on Hop-tu-Naa. Is Claire's desire to know what happened that night deluding her about the dangers she is running, or will solving that mystery save her as things begin to take a deadly turn?
Ewan doesn't tell his story sequentially: while all the action takes place on - or around - a Hop-tu-Naa, they aren't presented in order. While that maintains the mystery to a degree - we don't know all of what Claire knows till the very end - it inevitably lessens some of the tension since we can keep checking what the date is and inferring that she will escape more or less unscathed from the current hazard...
Until that last Hop-tu-Naa, of course...
This is a pacey and engaging thriller, where the real mystery is less what has happened (though that features) but what will happen, who, if anyone, will survive and how damaged they will be if they do. Definitely one to be read on a dark winter's evening, and I suspect it wouldn't get the wholehearted endorsement of the Manx Tourist Board.
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