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Monday 29 March 2021

‘Body on the Island’ by Victoria Dowd

Published by Joffe Books,
23 February 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78931663-6 (PB)

Ursula Smart, her mother, Pandora, and her Aunt Charlotte are three of five women who survived a nightmare when they were targeted by a killer who slaughtered the rest of their book club. Ursula and Pandora are still under the care of a therapist, but Pandora has capitalised on the experience by writing articles about their experience, which was financially useful but has kept the ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ in the public eye. Ursula decides that it would be a good idea for her family to learn survival skills and books her mother, her aunt and herself onto a survival course. Pandora is appalled by the idea but insists that, if she is going, Ursula must also invite Mirabelle, Pandora’s best friend. Ursula accepts this, even though Mirabelle’s adoration of Pandora means that she is consistently unpleasant and undermining to Ursula. When the Smart women arrive at their remote and desolate Scottish location, they are annoyed to encounter the only other person who survived the Book Club Slaughterhouse, the annoying Bridget with her spoilt dog, Mr Bojingles. Bridget had discovered that they were going on this trip and, ignoring the fact that the book club has been disbanded, has decided to join them.

None of the women are impressed by the survival trip organiser, Brendan Brown, who they nickname Kemp, because they decide he bears a resemblance to a Lego version of Ross Kemp. However, the next morning, they are ready and waiting for the boat that is going to take them on their survival trip. They are picked up by Spear, a man that Ursula describes as ‘Angry Army Man’, Spear’s wife, Nell; a drunken, coarse boat’s captain; a young crew member and three passengers. A violent storm blows up and, to the passengers’ horror, the captain steers straight into it. This is the point at which Ursula realises that the Smart women have got on the wrong boat and are heading for an extreme survival trip.

They are shipwrecked and, as Ursula is struggling to survive in the storm-tossed sea, she believes that she sees a green-eyed woman being forced under the waves by strong hands. Ursula, Pandora, Aunt Charlotte, Mirabelle, Bridget and Mr Bojingles all survive and find themselves on a deserted island, along with three other people from the boat; two bodies are washed ashore, and one woman is missing. Ursula is an emotionally vulnerable young woman who is still (literally) haunted by her dead father and everybody dismisses her fears that there are strange happenings on the island and that there is a murderer in their midst. And then more people are killed...

Body on the Island is the second book featuring Ursula and her family but stands on its own with the relevant backstory told very clearly. The book is darkly comic with some very sinister moments, the driving force is the barbed dialogue between the five women and Ursula’s cynical descriptions of those around her. There are some delightfully acerbic comments, that are gloriously humorous and reveal the characters of both Ursula and Pandora. One of my favourite such comments was: ‘Mother doesn’t do profound. She hates the theatre and says it’s full of people trying to look intelligent. Which is not something that has ever troubled her.’ Body on the Island is recommended for readers who enjoy dark comedy crime.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Victoria Dowd was born and raised in Yorkshire and after studying at Cambridge, went on to be a successful criminal law barrister for many years.  Victoria’s debut crime novel, The Smart Woman’s Guide to Murder (published by Joffe Books) is the first part of a dark, humorous crime series that is a modern take on the Golden Age of crime fiction and authors such Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey.
She is an award-winning short story writer, winning the Gothic Fiction prize for short fiction 2019 by Go Gothic. Victoria has had short stories published in BTS Literary and Arts Annual, Gold Dust magazine and also by Stairwell books in their literary and arts journal Dream Catcher. Her work has also been selected for publication in an anthology entitled A Ghostly Challenge. She speaks at various literary festivals, most recently in Bath, and at various schools and book groups. Her historical fiction, The Painter of Siena, was published in 2016.

Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.
To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title.

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