Review: Fatal Collision by Thorne Moore
Idyllic Pembrokeshire turns out to be anything but in Thorne Moore’s latest novel, which gives us the seaside postcard dipped in acid.
A grieving widow, Nicki Winters decamps to a seaside cottage to escape the attention of a stalker and also the memories of her husband, who was run over by a drunk driver right in front of her eyes.
But his ghost travels with her, whispering in her ears, or at least in her mind, as she tries to concentrate on painting but the cliffs paint for her the promise of escape: if she throws herself off she can be with her beloved Adam forever. Rather than record what she sees she wants to become it so she can be reunited with her love:
“In a few hours the sun would have burned away the cellophane wrapping of the new day, blinding light strobing from the shook foil of the sea, and the hot and bothered dust would settle, but for the moment everything was washed fresh.
A deep-down silence defied the gulls’ clamour. I was one with the primeval rock and ocean, a world that no one else shared, except Adam. In that fleeting amnesty between day and night, we were one again.”
The harbourside village turns out to be a writhing mess of mysteries and secrets which Nicki does her best to solve and probe.
There’s the abrupt departure of a young, pregnant local girl who severs all contact with her mother and the disappearance, too, of the wife of the über rich man, Oliver Wyatt who owns one of the big houses nearby, as well as a super-yacht on which champagne is always served.
And seemingly set in the middle of the whole spider’s web of intrigue is Oliver’s screwball mother, who may be delusional because of dementia or equally might be a dangerous psychopath.
Whatever the diagnosis she has been known to occasionally blast a shotgun in the direction of local youths and lives in a Downton Abbey sort of make-believe in which she deceives herself that all the visitors to Cwrt-y-Frân are royalty or otherwise well-connected. She hates plebs, that’s for certain.
These wild but sustained fantasies keep her just this side of insanity, for as one of the house guests explains, ‘Tell her you’re minor Balkan royalty and she won’t mind if you’re wearing a bin bag and sniffing glue.’
In the midst of so much unreality Nicki finds herself doubting her own mind, putting some of the weirdness down to her own post traumatic trauma, especially now that the court case against the man who mowed down her husband is looming, and she is determined to attend the trial.
She also has to generate some new work for a forthcoming show, so the pressure’s well and truly on.
The book is full of collisions, not just the one between an out-of-control car and Nicki’s husband, who died in the gateway of his home, his head cradled by his wife.
She is the daughter of a trade unionist, a woman who can properly be described as a feisty ‘revolutionary firebrand’ and thus the polar opposite of the champagne-quaffing, self-described ‘capitalist reprobate’ Oliver.
But opposites attract and the two end up spending the night together, setting the community news-wires fair buzzing with excitement. Soon Nicki is drawn into the full murk of the man’s past, enslaved as he seems to be to his mad mother’s crazy needs and unreasonable commands.
Fatal Collision is a confidently plotted novel which moves elegantly through a series of set pieces such as the local sailing regatta – complete with arrogant visiting Americans straight out of central casting – an art gallery opening and a stomach-clenching, tense dinner before moving steadily through the gears until the book revs like a thriller.
There is a chase through a country house involving a madman with a gun and a high-speed sea-chase complete with exploding flares and the thrum of police helicopters.
All this and a series of mysteries being solved like steadily peeling back the layers of an onion.
The novel finally allows the onshore sea-breezes to blow away the septic miasmas which surround the Wyatt family and their multiple seaside skulduggeries, just as surely as the gate of their country pile is pulverised by an outsize tractor.
This is Pembrokeshire, after all. Where anything is possible.
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