Reviewed by Chris
TITLE: Foxglove Copse
SERIES: Porthkennack #5
AUTHOR: Alex Beecroft
PUBLISHER: Riptide Publishing
LENGTH: 249 pages
RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2017
After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.
Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.
Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.
So the first half of this book I really loved.
We have Sam–who clearly is dealing with some major anxiety issues–driving around in a tricked-out camper because he can’t even deal with life at home anymore. Not with his super judgmental family, not with his high-pressure job, not with anything, really. So he is clearly dealing with shit. And on top of all that he is getting close to broke, despite the fact that his family is clearly in the money. He has no real destination, but when he sees a chance to camp out in a deserted field for a bit–free of charge and human interaction–he takes it. It is just too bad that he happens to find the body of a dissected sheep and an irate farmer with shotgun not long after. Luckily her nephew is a bit more level-headed and keeps his aunt from shooting Sam.
This part of the story was just great. Sam may be a bit of a mess, but he was an interesting mess. And I’m clearly in the kind of mood to be kicked in the feels, because I just loved watching him trying to deal with all this shit and falling a bit apart. The bits with Ruan–the irate farmer’s nephew–were also just damn good. I liked them, and how they worked. Neither of them had it all together, but when they were together they certainly had something. For the first half of this story I was thinking this was going to be one of my favorites. The atmosphere, the writing, the characters…it was just working for me.
Then we get to the whole “mystery” part of the story, where there are a group of teenage girls being harassed online and in real life by some absolute douche. And on top of that someone is clearly going after Raun and his aunt by leaving dead animals in ritual poses around their homes. Had it just been that I probably would have been fine. I tend to not enjoy bullying subplots, but the mystery of whodunit was halfway decent, so I didn’t mind so much.
I…I just…look. I love books with magic. I love books without magic. Yet despite that, I absolutely do not do well with books set in places/worlds where magic doesn’t exist but the book tries to make you think it does. It just makes the characters seem a bit nuts, to be honest. The whole occult aspect of this story didn’t work at all for me. My brain does not do well with stories that try to mesh the two concepts together without clearly defining the book world as one where magic is a thing that can happen. Things kept happening, and all I could think is: He is clearly mental ill. Why is no one bring that up?
Which leads me to my biggest issue with the story. The ending. This is a bit SPOILERY, though, so might want to look away now…
I hate how the conflict in this book is resolved. Hate it. Some people may think it was a fair trade, but cannot see it that way. The fucker terrorized a bunch of children, driving some of them to suicide, and he hardly gets punished for it. I don’t care if he had to work on a two-plank raft in the middle of the arctic. There is no fucking way that this backroom deal is at all a fair punishment. Because when he gets to come back–and oh yeah, let’s not kid ourselves, there is no way they are not letting him come back–he will come back firm in the knowledge that he did nothing wrong…because what he got was a slap on the fucking wrist. And when he starts terrorizing a new group of people–because why the hell would he not?–no one is going to be able to go to the police and say, “look he did it before!” because they would have no fucking proof. Why? Because no one went to the fucking cops!
I just really hate how the bullying was swept under the rug in this. They say sending him out on the boats will help him grow up, or some shit, but I fail to see how isolating him from the world, feeding his persecution complex, and then removing all ways of treating his clear mental illness is in any way going to help him. He is only going to come back bigger, meaner, and probably with bigger mental health issues than before. And to make up for all of this, they basically bought the silence of everyone who he bullied. I fail to see how this ending is good for anyone.
This book was very much like going from one side of the emotional spectrum to the other, for me. I loved the first half, had issues with the middle, and hated the ending. It wasn’t horrible, on the whole, and I will admit to personal feeling getting in the mix here, but I can’t see me recommending it to people. I have no doubt some people will like it. I just can’t say it was something I got real pleasure out of reading.