Saturday, December 28, 2013

"The Celtic Stone" by Nick Hawkes

The Celtic Stone
Chris Norman's dreams of being a commercial pilot are shattered when he crashes his light plane in central Australia and is badly wounded. His life hangs in the balance, a balance that is swayed by the intervention of an Aboriginal man. He leaves Chris with a mysterious and incongruous legacy, a Celtic cross made of stone. Partly blinded and in deep grief at no longer being able to fly, Chris finds his way to the inhospitable islands off the West Coast of Scotland where he seeks to unravel the secrets of the Celtic stone. A blind Hebridean woman, shunned by many in the local community, becomes his reluctant ally, along with a seven year old boy who is as wild as the storm tossed seas that surround the islands. But violence remains and Chris must overcome his grief to find answers to his questions. But the threat of murder lingers ...


A really clever, engrossing and surprising book.

Chris Norman is saved from his light plane wreck by a tribal hunter named Raberaba, who attempts to pull him back to white man's domain. After another accident, Chris is left with the strangest thing anyone would expect to find dangling around the neck of a tribal Aboriginal-an ancient Celtic cross.

After inheriting his grandfather's property on the Isle of Skye, Chris gets a chance to live there and research the origin of the cross. At first the mystery of how it turned up in outback Australia seemed pretty easily solved, but I had no idea of what was coming. It was all tied up as evidence in a historical feud, almost getting Chris and his loved-ones murdered by corrupt locals who knew a travesty of justice had been covered up for a century. There was even one extra, potentially scandalous secret thrown in for the reader which the main characters never discovered anything about.

What I loved most about this book is the terrific insight the author, Nick Hawkes, has into characters of all sorts of diverse international backgrounds, allowing us to get deep into their heads. I wish Raberaba could have been in it longer, because his point of view, with such a deep sense of spirit and place, really showed that although his people share Australia with white settlers, neither are on the same wavelength at all.

The attitudes and feelings of the Scottish clans folk are shown by several characters. There is Morag, the beautiful girl with a tragic event in her past which blinded her, Ruan, the independent and recently orphaned little boy, and Alsdair, the son of the local laird who is bright and principled, but a bit too fond of his whiskey. Amongst all these, Chris himself comes across as an accurate representative of a young Aussie bloke. I appreciated that he came from Adelaide, which has always been my home city.

The descriptions of settings are beautiful too, both equally harsh in opposite ways. It begins in the arid Australian outback, but later most of the story takes place on the bleak, cold Isle of Skye. Through it all, you've got to appreciate how the Celtic stone found its way back home to where it started, and how all sorts of events which seemed unrelated were tied together.

Probably the last book I'll read in 2013, but in many ways, one of the best.

4.5 stars

The Celtic Stone available from Amazon

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