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Monday 17 October 2011

The Red Gate by Richard Sutton

I'm afraid I did have some editing issues with this book, but nothing can alter the fact that this was an excellently conceived story set in the early 1900s in the harsh Irish wilderness.

A young, honest, hardworking farmer's son, Finn, finds a little more than a fistful of mud when he slips and falls during inclement weather whilst tending his sheep – a curious little bead with strange markings.  An encounter with a prominent professor of archaeology during a dig in a nearby town triggers a chain of events which entails ruthless greed and ambition, deceit and murder.  This little bead, it seems, is the key to a much greater and significant ancestral history buried beneath the land owned by Finn and his father.  Unscrupulous characters seeking fame and fortune underestimate the intelligence and quick-wittedness of those they perceive as simple, illiterate farmers.  Greed has its price.

This book was for the most part well-written:  you could feel the hardship and simplicity of the farmers' lives, but the acceptance of their lot was almost endearing, no words of complaint ever left their lips; there was a smile-raising cosiness about the warmth of the family and their support of each other;  the growing relationship of Finn and the innkeeper's daughter who was teaching him to read was heart-warming;  the pompous professor's and his devious assistants' villainous intents were well crafted. Clearly, a tremendous amount of background research of Irish heritage was carried out and it was well integrated into the plot of this book.

The author has an engaging style, and very deftly brought to life the essence of Ireland – the rugged countryside was almost tangible, the use of Irish dialect was charming (though not always clear!) and I swear I could hear the strains of a merry little Irish jig in the background! The plot is original and compelling.

Although I can recommend this book, I do hope that it is put through a stringent editorial mill for the next reader(s).

This review was originally written for The TBR Pile

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