CTG Reviews: Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett

Stone Bruises cover image

Stone Bruises cover image

What the blurb says: “Sean is on the run. We don’t know why and we don’t know from whom. Under a relentless French sun, he’s abandoned his blood-stained car and taken to the parched fields and country lanes. And now he’s badly injured.

Almost unconscious from pain and loss of blood, he’s rescued and nursed by two young women on an isolated farm. Their volatile father, Arnaud, is violently protective of his privacy and makes his dislike of the young Englishman clear. Sean’s uncertain whether he’s a patient or a prisoner, but there’s something beguiling about the farm. Tranquil and remote, it’s a perfect place to hide.

Except some questions can’t be ignored. Why has Arnaud gone to such extreme lengths to cut off his family from the outside world? Why is he so hated in the neighbouring village? And why won’t anyone talk about his daughter’s estranged lover?

As Sean tries to lose himself in the heat and dust of a French summer, he comes to realise that the farm has secrets of its own. It might be a perfect hiding place, but that means nobody know he’s there … which would make it the perfect place to die.”

As a reader I like my books action packed and pulse poundingly fast, but this story isn’t like that. It’s a slow burn, teasing and taunting with clues and twists, building the anticipation of what is to come in a way that kept even an adrenalin junkie like me hooked.

At the start of the story it’s clear that Sean has something to hide, something he’s running from, but this danger is soon overtaken by a more immediate problem when he gets caught in one of many traps set in woodland surrounding a dilapidated farm. Taken in and nursed back to health by the farmer’s daughters, Sean goes from victim, to prisoner, to willing labourer. All the time, trying to safeguard his secrets, and not ask too many questions about the rumours surrounding the farm. But as time passes, and Sean bares witness to increasingly strange goings on, it becomes clear that the place that has given him refuge may be a greater threat than the danger he has been hiding from.

The way that Beckett creates a deeply claustrophobic feeling within a remote and spacious setting is superb. The intrigue and suspense build with every page, and soon both the reader and Sean have the chilling realisation that the dysfunctional family have secrets far more sinister than they’d ever imagined. This rising sense of impending doom is paid off in full at the end of the story with a brutal climax and some shocking twists.

Artfully plotted and lyrically told, this is a story that stays with you long after the final page has been finished.

Highly recommended.

 

[with many thanks to Bantam Press for my copy of Stone Bruises]

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