Perched on a Welsh clifftop, the ancient, picturesque hamlet of Rhosddraig has its peaceful façade ripped apart when human remains are discovered under a pile of stones.
The village pub, The Dragon’s Head, run by three generations of women, becomes the focal point for those interested in the grisly find, and it’s where layers of deceit are peeled away to expose old secrets, and deep wounds. The police need to establish who died, how, and why, but DI Evan Glover knows he can’t be involved in the investigation because he’s just two days away from retirement.
However, as the case develops in unexpected ways, it becomes irrevocably woven into his life, and the lives of local families, leading to disturbing revelations – and deadly consequences . . .
Because I spend so much of my day job staring at a computer, I massively prefer reading tree books to ebooks. So it takes a very strong blurb to entice me onto a tour that’s offering e-proofs only. One look at Cathy Ace’s The Wrong Boy however and I was SO there for this blog tour!! A quiet village, a grisly find, three generations of family secrets – it’s like Shelf catnip!
And I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. After a slightly slow start in which the key characters are established, I zipped through The Wrong Boy. Packed full of secrets and lies, this is a crime novel that will take the reader to some very dark places indeed, as the crimes of the past come back to haunt those living in the present.
At its heart, this is the story of three women – Myfanwy ‘Nan’ Jones, her daughter Helen, and her grand-daughter Sadie. The Jones’ have run The Dragon’s Head in Rhosddraig for generations and their family story is entwined with the story of the village itself. Family matriarch Nan rules with a sharp tongue and a disagreeable temper, whilst long-suffering Helen dreams of the life that could have been hers if she hadn’t made a poor choice long ago. Sadie meanwhile sees her redemption in barman Aled Benyon. But why does Nan dislike Aled’s mother so much? And is Aled really everything he seems?
Cathy Ace does a fantastic job of making us really live alongside Nan, Helen and Sadie. I found Nan to be a really dislikeable character – she’s sharp, difficult and vindictive – and it’s a testament to Ace’s writing that there were moments in the book when I truly loathed her. Helen and Sadie are much more sympathetic although both, in their own way, are touched by trauma and darkness. Similarly, I really enjoyed the chapters narrated by DI Evan Glover, a gentle long-serving copper who has been looking forward to spending a quiet retirement with his beloved wife, but who just can’t seem to step back from this one last case.
The plot has plenty of twists and turns. The start is a little slow – there are quite a few characters to introduce and it did take me a while to work out how everyone in Rhosddraig was related to each other – but it quickly picks up the pace as new secrets emerge and the police investigation gathers pace. And the ending is really quite a revelation – to say the climax is dramatic would, I think, be an understatement!
If I had a small criticism it would be that I think there are a few too many narrative perspectives in the book. Nan, Helen and Sadie are really strong characters and their voices really lived in my head when I was reading. Similarly, I found Evan’s voice very distinctive. However some of the more minor characters, such as Evan’s wife, also narrate a few sections and I did occasionally find all the head-jumping a little frustrating, especially as their voices and characters weren’t quite as strong.
That’s a really minor niggle in an otherwise excellent book, however. Cathy Ace has written a very engaging combination of police procedural and family drama, with a fabulous sense of place and characterisation. I really felt that I could see Rhosddraig and it’s many characters and, despite all the suspicious deaths, Ace’s descriptions of the rugged beauty of the Welsh coast made me nostalgic for the many years I spent living in Wales! Deftly plotted, with engaging characters, and a bewitching sense of place, I am so glad I got over my ebook qualms and picked this one up!
The Wrong Boy by Cathy Ace is published by Four Tails Publishing an is available now in hardcover, paperback and ebook from all good booksellers and online retailers, including Waterstones and Amazon. My thanks go to the author for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, as well as to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour. The tour continues until 13 January 2019 so please do check out some of the other stops!