A shocking act of violence
A family torn apart
A daughter gone missing
– The Island
[ About the Book ]
A shocking act of violence…
It should have been the safest place on earth. A summer camp for teens, on a beautiful island off the coast of Oslo. But what started out as a haven becomes hell on earth as two men start shooting.
A family torn apart…
With Norway in shock, the families gather, desperately hoping their children have survived. Some have their prayers answered. Some must confront their worst nightmare. But for one family, this is just the beginning…
A daughter gone missing…
Cal and Elsa’s daughter Licia was on the island that day. But the police can find no trace of her – dead or alive. Stuck in limbo, Cal and Elsa delve into their daughter’s life. The secrets they uncover are shocking. But they still don’t know – did Licia survive the shooting? Or is she gone forever?
[ My Review ]
The Island by Ben McPherson was published on January 7th in paperback format (originally published in HB and digital format Aug 2020) with Harper Collins and is described as ‘a gripping psychological crime thriller’. Set in Norway it is the story of one family and how their lives were ripped apart by a series of very unexpected and shocking events.
Scottish born satirist, Cal and his Norwegian wife, Elsa had arrived in Oslo for a six month stint with their three young children, shortly due to return to their life in Washington DC. It’s summertime in Oslo and their eldest Licia is away at a summer camp on a small island off the coast of Oslo. A bomb ripping through a building in the town centre sends shockwaves through the city but it is what follows that truly horrifies a nation. Gunmen alight on the island where Licia’s camp is being hosted and mercilessly open fire on teenagers. The death toll is staggering and a community mourns. For Elsa and Cal, their life is turned upside down. When the bodies are repatriated onto the mainland, families grieve for the lives lost, young lives viciously hacked down by madmen. For Cal and Elsa, their journey is only just beginning. Licia’s body is not among the ones retrieved. Where is she? What has happened to their quiet and beautiful daughter?
A camera crew who managed to film some of the terror live from their helicopter appear to have caught footage of a young girl who looks just like Licia. This girl was witnessed as saving others and putting her own life on the line for many. To Cal and Elsa, and the world, Licia was a hero. Hashtags appeared on social media praising Licia for her courage and strength and, although difficult for Cal and Elsa to accept, it appeared that their daughter was never coming home.
Their younger daughter, Vee, a tech whizz, carries out her own bit of research and raises questions about the events on the island that day, very pertinent questions. With the gunmen now awaiting trial, Cal and Elsa want answers, and want them fast, prepared to step outside their comfort zones, if need be, to uncover the truth about what really happened that day.
Cal and Elsa have a fractured relationship and the cracks begin to show as their search for answers continues. Not the most likeable of characters, the reader is left wondering, at times, who is hiding something and is it connected to Licia’s disappearance? Vee, their young daughter, is depicted as someone far older than she is. Her attitude and general demeanour were quite worldly for one so young, a bit too savvy in my humble opinion. Not liking characters never deters me from enjoying a novel. If anything, it can sometimes add an extra layer of credibility to the story but something felt very off with many of the cast in this story. I read translated Nordic Noir/Scandi books and, perhaps, this is where the issue lies for me. The Island is not a translated work, as the author is English, but it feels like an attempt at making it appear so. When reading translated works one of the many joys for me is how I become immersed in a very unfamiliar world, with perhaps a different turn of phrase and always atmospheric descriptions that transport me to, quite often, remote and stark environments. I wasn’t transported to Oslo reading The Island, as I found it challenging to visualise the settings. I had very little empathy for Cal and Elsa and found Vee’s character to be totally exaggerated.
So overall what did I think? The premise of The Island is very good. It’s dark and unsettling depicting how the mind can be bended to the will of others when the end justifies the means. It is full of some downright subversive and nasty characters that do get under your skin with other individuals leaving you perplexed as to their innocence until the final pages.
I’m going to have to remain on the fence with this book as having not read the author’s previous, and very well acclaimed work, it may just be that this one book didn’t work for me. There are plenty of reviewers who loved The Island so do let me know your thoughts. Perhaps I have just missed something?
[ Bio ]
Ben McPherson’s debut novel was the highly acclaimed A Line of Blood. He is a television producer and director, as well as a writer, and for more than ten years worked for the BBC, among other outlets.
He is also an occasional columnist for Aftenposten, Norway’s leading quality daily, and lives in Oslo with his wife and two children.