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Thursday 13 November 2014

‘Cloudland’ by Joseph Olshan

Published by Arcadia,
24 October 2013.
ISBN: 978-1-90641-392-7

In the first spring thaw in her Vermont home, Catherine Winslow discovers a woman’s body – the latest victim of a serial killer.  Soon, she discovers that he seems to be basing his killings on Wilkie Collins’ last, unfinished story The Withered Tree – a rare book which used to be on her bookshelf .

This dreamily-written novel is half-crime, half romance, with Catherine’s relationships with her younger ex-lover Matthew, her daughter Breck and her neighbours becoming entangled in her search for the truth.  Catherine herself is a vividly-imagined presence.  As the narrator, she describes the hunt for the killer, but we’re also given her thoughts and memories about how she has arrived here, notably in the lyrical ending to each section of the novel.  The Vermont setting is lovingly evoked, through the sudden spring, the verdant summer and back to the cold of winter again.  There’s a rural feel to the characters, like slaughterman Hiram and gossipy, smart-mouthed waitress Sheila, in contrast to the ‘incomers’ like neighbours Paul and Wade, and Catherine herself. 

If you’re interested in people as well as a puzzle, this book draws you into Catherine’s world, and leaves you wanting to know more after the puzzle has been solved.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Joseph Olshan is the award-winning author of nine novels. His broad-ranging subjects vary from the wise, tough-minded, hilarious Clara Mayfield who became the model of the film character based on his novel, Clara's Heart, to an aristocratic, politically savvy Italian novelist who lives in a villa in Tuscany (The Conversion). His forthcoming novel, Cloudland (St. Martin's April 2012) is based on a true crime story: the serial murders of 6 women that occurred in the Connecticut River valley of Vermont and New Hampshire, crimes that were never solved. His writing has been translated into sixteen languages. He lives between Vermont and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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