The Last Refuge

Written by Craig Robertson

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

The Last Refuge
Simon & Schuster
RRP: £7.99
Released: September 25th, 2014

This novel begins with an opening that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. The main character wakes up wet and cold, amongst fishing paraphernalia on a harbour. He has no memory of the night before, and he clutches a blood-stained whaling knife in his hand.

And so begins the roller coaster. We soon learn that the narrator is a Scotsman named John Callum, who is running away from his home town of Glasgow to escape something that happened there – something that gives him recurring nightmares. His refuge comes in the form of the remote Faroe Islands, where everything is different and alien and as an outsider he is viewed with suspicion.

The Faroe islands themselves are a major character in this novel. I knew very little about them before reading the book, but the sense of place is realistically and expertly drawn, and I came away from the story knowing so much about this little cluster of islands in the North Sea that I almost feel I’ve been there myself.

The story of what happened to John Callum is drawn out very slowly. We find out fairly early on that he used to be a teacher, but whatever happened in the past means he can’t go back to that profession. Instead he gets a job on a fish farm, and starts to get to know some of the local people – including unconventional young artist Taris Lisberg. Taris’s violent ex-boyfriend Aron Dam is not happy about her new relationship, and when Dam turns up dead all suspicion fall on Callum – and as he can’t remember anything about that night, he even starts to suspect himself.

The narrative of this thriller is cleverly spun out. Because for so long we don’t actually know what happened to Callum in Glasgow, we aren’t sure whether he is a victim of unfortunately circumstance, or whether he is indeed a cold-blooded killer. I did start to quite like John Callum, and didn’t really want to believe he was a killer – but there was that nagging doubt that perhaps he was just an expert manipulator, and he really was the bad guy.

Callum sets about trying to find out what happened to Aron Dam, if just to find out whether or not he actually is the murderer, and the plot unravels in a roller coaster ride of twists and turns that will keep you reading until the bitter end.

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