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Thriller set in the Isle of Man (Cre’n raad ren oo roie Hop-tu-naa*)

13th May 2015

Dark Tides by Chris Ewan, thriller set in the Isle of Man.

IMG_0566Hop-tu-naa (pronounced hop-two-nay) is a Celtic festival on 31st October, celebrated in the Isle of Man and pre-dates Halloween. It is also the original celebration of New Year’s Eve. Every year, children will dress up and carry carved  turnip lanterns, which are actually swedes or known as moots by the Manx people. The english translation means “this is the night”; or “Fright Night” as some people call it….

Claire Cooper is 14, and is invited by a fellow schoolgirl, Rachel, to join her and 4 others in a regular 31st October – Hop-tu-naa – “Dare”. The first escapade is harmless enough: the young people drive to a remote part of the island, hide themselves in a remote woodland, stand with eyes closed, no peaking allowed, and just accept what happens (if anything). As she is apprehensively positioned, a hand brushes across Claire’s chest and a frisson of dread mixed with exhilaration electrify her. She is now committed to the annual Dare. Each year thereafter one of the group suggests another dare on the same date.

Claire’s Mother has recently disappeared, just like that. There is no trace of her, despite extensive police investigations. She regularly worked at the big mansion – a Hammer House of Horror – owned by Edward Caine, a man with reptilean features, eyes that were ‘round and bulging. Amphibian, somehow’, and a peremptory manner that left little Claire in no doubt that he was a bad man – but bad enough to have killed her Mother? Living with him – and kept at home – is his sickly son, Morgan, who seems desperate for friends but is protected from outside influences by his overbearing Father. Morgan, too, lost his Mother as she fell from an indoor balcony, in an accident.

One ‘dare’ suggested for the evening of 31st October 2005 is that the group enters the Caine house, and leaves a footprint facing the door in the ash of the hearth. A footprint pointing to the fireplace indicates a new arrival, but one pointing to the door suggests a death will occur soon thereafter. The group knows about Claire’s suspicions, and in an attempt to freak the householder out, Mark and David suggest settling old scores on Claire’s behalf. But the dare goes horribly wrong and the group individuals all have to pick up the pieces of their lives over the coming years.

Claire decides to join the Manx Constabulary and does well for herself but always in the back of her mind is the dreadful event in 2005. Then, members of the original group start to die in mysterious circumstances and after two deaths Claire has picked up the mantle of Nancy Drew and is on the case.

So, who is targeting the individuals? It is clearly someone out for vengeance. It is also someone who comes to be depicted as flawed (obviously), there are mentions that the person has an addiction, and has an obsessive personality; there are also short chapters where a voice (a voice seemingly in the perpetrator’s head) reflects on events, but all these factors really don’t add up as a motivating, psychological drive for a killing spree. The plot bowls along, it is a very readable book but at times feels a little loose in plot construction. The wealth of descriptions can feel a little like padding, inviting skim reading.

The book really does bring the Isle of Man to life as the characters travel around the island, past cute names like Tholt-y-Will. And find out about the Moddey Dhoo (the phantom black dog) at Peel Castle – and do remember to say hello to the Little People when driving over the Fairy Bridge in the South….

Tina for the TripFiction Team.

You can follow Chris on Twitter and connect via his website

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Cre’n raad ren oo roie Hop-tu-naa is from the Manx Hop-Tu-Naa song meaning: “where did you run to? Hop-tu-naa”


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  1. User: aditi3991

    Posted on: 19/05/2015 at 11:34 am

    Nice review 🙂