I have mixed feelings about this historical mystery. The writing was brilliant but the content was quite gruesome. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
The setting was interesting and unique, a Carolina settlement in 1699 that was losing its battle for permanence on the southern edge of the English territory. Descriptions are lush, and I had no trouble imagining the rain, the mosquitos, and the wood smoke.
In fact, the descriptions were so good that I practically gagged a few times. Yes, it’s a ghastly story and nothing is off limits, including sex with animals. You heard me. It was that point in the book that I almost gave up, mostly on principle. I recognized the author’s history with horror writing plainly; there was enough blood in the story to float a boat. However, the mystery was intriguing and I had to see whodunnit.
Overall, I’m glad I stuck with it, although this is a very long book—the unabridged audiobook was over 30 hours (and the paperback is 816 pages). The author certainly packed the book with everything he could think of: witchcraft, class struggles, the English judicial system, piracy, Native American life, English vs Spanish colonialism, gory murders, arson, sexual deviancy, medicine, crime (of course), and more.
There were several loose ends I wasn’t sure would be tied up. However, the conclusion was satisfactory, although the only thing I can see moving to the next volume is the main character, in a completely different setting and with an all new supporting cast.
Speaking of the characters, they were many and varied, and most were quite unique. Some where incredibly annoying, a few were strong and brave, and the rest were just sorry examples of 17th-century inhabitants. In fact, I don’t remember actually liking any of them; even Matthew Corbett, the protagonist, was depicted as a quivering city boy who was in way over his head. However, his incredible persistence over many frustrating days was admirable; I just wish it had come to fruition earlier.
I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Edoardo Ballerini, was absolutely terrific. His pacing was excellent and his voices were very distinct, and although I thought the creepy preacher sounded just like a pirate, I have no complaints.
This story is very close to horror, in my estimation. There was lots of violence and plenty of sex. Absolutely for adults only.