Tristan Griffin is a household name and the author of a universally popular detective series. For the past few years he has lived in self-exile in a remote jungle lodge nestled in the Mayan hills of Southern Belize, with his partner Hedda. The novel begins as he attempts suicide and Hedda disappears. Altamont Stanbury, an old Kriol police constable posted to the local backwater of San Antonio, rushes to the scene with his daughter Philomena, the village nurse.
Philomena saves Tristan but he remains unconscious. Altamont, a bumbler and long-time reader of crime novels, launches a half-hearted search for Hedda by radio but decides to remain at the lodge. In truth his reverence for Tristan the writer consumes all else, and he becomes obsessed with the Griffin books he finds at the lodge.
When Tristan comes to, he is distraught and at times delirious, haunted by flashbacks of his uncompromising, cursed love for Hedda and the dark secret behind her disappearance. His anger and increasingly erratic behavior only find respite in the presence of Altamont’s innocent daughter. But he feels nothing but spite for Altamont himself, and the relationship between the two threatens to have fatal consequences for one or both.
This is a novel that will transport you to the hot and sultry climate of South America, taking you into the minds and actions of a diverse group of characters.
Altamont Stanbury is our main protagonist, a police officer with a penchant for crime novels that kept him occupied during his time on duty in the relative quiet of the back water town of San Antonio. He came across as a bit of a bumbling character, a man biding his time until retirement. He had a seemingly indifferent attitude towards his wife, yet absolute adoration for his daughter, Philomena.
The disappearance of Hedda and the apparent suicide of Tristan Griffin were a dream cone true for Altamont. I expected to feel his frustration at his conflicting role as a police officer and a fan of Tristan’s books but there was none. he appeared perfectly at ease with an unconscious Griffin with whom he could talk to at length about his novels and appeared to have little interest in doing any actual police work. I actually quite liked this angle, it certainly made the novel a little different and it I was actually I who became frustrated, wanting Altamont to spring into action and actually do something.
I loved Philomena, a young woman with oodles of commonsense and a real sense of duty, not only to her patient but also to her community.
Tristan Griffin, was not a character I liked. He came across as quite selfish and controlling and was the real villain of the novel.
Salter was particularly good at managing the dual timeline throughout. We learnt the history of Griffin and Hedda’s relationship and their reason for living in such splendid isolation. It was interesting to learn about Hedda and like Griffin I was not sure she was a character I particularly liked, their personalities setting them on a trajectory that you just knew would not end well.
Salter’s description of the isolated Butterfly Ranch were wonderfully vivid and his evocation of a climate steeped in heat and humidity, fantastic. Indeed, they added an intensity to the novel and as the humidity increased, so did the tension amongst the characters, leading to a dramatic series of events befitting of any good thriller.
There was a lovely juicy twist at the end, that was just perfect making this a hugely enjoyable novel.
I would like to thank Matador for a copy of the novel to read and review and to Anne Cater and Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
RK Salters grew up in Paris in the 1970s to an Irish émigré father and French mother. He is himself an exile of sorts, having left the roost to study abroad and subsequently lived in a number of countries. His approach to writing is eclectic, drawing influences from classic and contemporary, genre and literary fiction alike, across both sides of the Atlantic.
He is now settled in Lithuania (Baltics), where he earlier met his future wife while exploring the collapsing Soviet Union. He is a passionate traveller and an expedition in Belizean jungles provided the setting for Butterfly Ranch, his first novel.