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Friday, 6 July 2018

‘A Fractured Winter’ by Alison Baillie

Published by Williams & Whiting,
9 April 2018.
IBSN  978-1-912582-05-1(PB)

Olivia has put her Scottish past behind her, after a decade of a happy marriage in Switzerland. Now, suddenly, she gets an anonymous note reminding her of her past ... and on the same day, a village child, her daughter’s best friend, goes missing.

This person-centred story draws you straight in, from the opening: the contrast between the children running off to school, and the sinister note. We know straight off that Olivia’s not as she seems, but her everyday life, looking after the children, baking, walking the dog, is made so real that by vivid description that we’re drawn into emphathising with her. As the chapters showing her past unfold, we understand what’s gone wrong in her life, and why. The characters that surround her are interesting too: the ageing rocker and his protective wife, who’s created a mansion hideaway up the road, the newcomers who are starting a spirituality centre, Olivia’s awkward teenager son, Julian, and her loving but distant husband, Christian. We see them all through Olivia’s eyes – the novel is narrated in third-person centring on her throughout – and have to assess for ourselves who is genuine and who’s manipulating her. Christian’s determined she should put the missing child behind her – but how can she? The descriptions of village life in Switzerland were wonderful – the beauty of the scenery, but at the same time the isolation, is used to atmospheric effect, and village events and traditional celebrations gave us a sense of life there while also moving the plot forwards. The strands of Olivia’s life gradually draw together to make a surprising, satisfying finish.

A well-plotted, atmospheric story of one woman’s carefully-constructed world falling apart. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Alison Baillie was brought up in Ilkley, Yorkshire by Scottish parents. She studied English at the University of St Andrews, before teaching English in Edinburgh secondary schools and EFL in Finland and Switzerland. Now she spends her time reading, writing, travelling, playing with her granddaughter and attending crime writing festivals.

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.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Death in Shetland Waters

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