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Thriller set in fictional Castleby – PEMBROKESHIRE COAST

9th April 2024

Sea State by J M Simpson, thriller set in fictional Castleby on the Pembrokeshire Coast.

Thriller set in fictional Castleby

No. 1 in the Castleby Series.

The plot centres around the Castleby RNLI rescue station, where Doug is the skipper of the crew. It is a male dominated team but Jesse, their newly recruited technician, has joined the ‘family’. It’s a great idea to set a novel around an RNLI station, something very different.

The team has been in the proverbial wars and events have seen members die and remain injured from recent emergency call-outs. The individuals are each coming to terms with their own sense of loss. Jesse, herself, has had to face her own demons and it transpires that she was terribly assaulted by Chris, her police officer boyfriend, back in the south of England, who attacked her and left her for dead, with both arms and legs broken. He is now securely incarcerated but she still has a sense of fear that permeates her waking and sleeping moments. She has acquired a dog, Brock, to keep her company and the dog soon becomes a talking point in the station.

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Doug is married to Claire and they have a terrible marriage. He seems to be the main carer of the kids, whilst Claire is out in all weathers being a doctor. She has no patience with Doug’s career and derides everything he does, even though he puts his life on the line with every call-out. Jesse meanwhile, because of the trauma she has suffered, is seeing Emma the psychiatrist to help her find a better balance in life and learn to face her demons.

There are occasional, irregular chapters where an observer-cum-stalker is viewing Jesse’s movements and, curiously, the narrator uses the royal ‘we’ to share the goings-on, which leaves the reader really guessing!

The novel bowls along at a good pace and it is easy to keep track of developments and characters. The author has created a good sense of small town life, centred around the RNLI station.

The trajectory of the unfolding events can feel quite enthusiastic, as the crew hurtles from one life shattering drama to the next. All in a day’s work. Incredibly, three major, newsworthy events have taken place within the first 100 pages, and by the end of the novel virtually every imaginable scenario of coastal rescue and drama has been encountered and dealt with.

I found the book overall readable and I generally got caught up in the dynamics of the community, the relationships and the near-tragedies, although it did feel just a little far-fetched at times.

One aspect with which I really struggled was the therapeutic relationship that Emma (the psychiatrist) and Jesse were building. Emma’s interventions were so far removed from true life experience – bullying at times – that it left me feeling quite incredulous; Emma pushed, had no boundaries, made inappropriate observations, niggled away at things, brought outside life into the room and generally proved to be the kind of psychiatrist that gives therapy a really bad name. And that for me distracted from the positives of the novel because it made the story untenable – although we do discover more about Emma as the book moves on. I guess this won’t be an issue for other readers, however, but for me I almost gave up reading because of the depressingly inaccurate depiction (and yes, I am a trained therapist).

The formatting does need a little attention, as the breaks between paragraph groupings are randomly either clean line breaks or asterisks (I don’t think this is an intended device??), with a few spelling errors along the way; so, another quick once-over by the proof reader would make this feel more polished.

The author has a good writing style and creates a romp of a story. She goes on to return to Castleby, with further adventures in Sea Change, Sea Shaken, Sea Haven  and Sea Rift.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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Catch the author on Twitter @jmsimpsonauthor and Instagram @jmsimpsonauthor

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