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Dark Tides by Chris Ewan - Review

Sunday, July 25, 2021

I got this book from my subscription box A Box of Stories, which is around £16 and includes four books each time. I get mine every three months which is perfect for me. I am subscribed to the mixed fiction box which often includes crime fiction, which as you'll know I've been reading a lot recently, so I don't mind. I was intrigued by the premise of this book and picked it up fairly quickly after it arrived. 

The book is set on the Isle of Man where the late autumn festival Hop-tu-Naa is celebrated on Halloween (it apparently is linked to Samhain). When Claire Cooper is eight years old, her mother disappears on Hop-tu-Naa. The two have been out on the streets collecting sweets (like trick-or-treating I guess) and singing a traditional song. Their last call of the evening is the mansion where Claire's mum works. It's owned by Edward Caine, who lives there with his young son Morgan. Claire finds him very creepy, and describes him as a bit of a villain. He asks her mum to return later to do some work. Claire's mum leaves the house, but is never seen again. Edward Caine swears that she never arrived at the mansion, but Claire remains suspicious of him. 

Years later, a girl called Rachel invites Claire out with her friends on the Hop-tu-Naa that they are fourteen. They meet up with four lads - Callum, David, Mark, and Scott, and they do a dare in the woods. Claire is terrified, and an unknown assailant feels her up while she's out there in the dark. She assumes it's one of the boys, but never gets to the bottom of it. 

For the next few years, the six do dares every Hop-tu-Naa. By the time Claire is eighteen she's going out with David, and is at uni in Manchester. It's Mark's turn to choose the dare and he reckons they should break into Edward Caine's mansion, and leave a traditional Manx symbol on the hearth, one which is associated with Hop-tu-Naa. The tradition goes that you leave ash on the hearth and if in the morning there's a footprint on the hearth it means one of two things - if it's facing towards the fire it means there'll be a birth in the family, and if it's facing towards the room it means there'll be a death in the family. Mark's plan is to leave a footprint facing out just to scare Edward.

However, Edward catches them in the act and one of them sets upon him, beating him up so severely that he is left paralysed. The book is not linear in this way, so I'm not explaining it as it happens. Because, nearly a decade later, Claire is back living on the Isle of Man, having trained as a police officer. She goes to visit someone in prison to try to get answers about that night, but comes away frustrated. But, on Hop-tu-Naa that year, Scott is driving along the road when he crashes into the side of the road and is killed. Claire is an attending officer and she sees the muddy footprint left on one of the mats in the car, but can't be sure if it's intentional or not. 

Over the next couple of years further "accidents" happen and eventually Claire puts it together and realises what's happening. The book culminates in a truly creepy and terrifying way. 

I liked the book - I liked the non linear structure and the way we met up with the same characters year after year. I liked Claire but thought characterisation in general was a little lacking. I loved the Manx setting and the traditions of Hop-tu-Naa. This is really creepy in parts which I liked. I'm giving this a good four out of five. 

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