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Ravens GatheringIt’s very hard to pigeonhole Ravens Gathering, the debut novel from Graeme Cumming.

Part return of the prodigal son, part murder mystery/crime thriller and part something more akin to sci-fi than anything else.

Certainly not the other world fantasy suggested by the title – although there were elements of other worldness too.

Such a mixed bag shouldn’t work – surely it’s against the rules to blend genres so thoroughly?

Perhaps, but Ravens Gathering is a page-turning read because the writing grounds the reader in reality.

No over-blown hyperbole or feisty damsels kicking ass or manly men felling villains left, right and centre.

What the blurb says

As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds.

Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing.

And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them.

The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving.

Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction.

Tragic accident

His closeness offered security. “You know what they are, don’t you?”

A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack.

As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.

And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.

Instead we have Martin Gates, an ordinary guy who, after years away from home, feels a sudden urge to check out the folks he left behind.

They aren’t too pleased to see him and, as Martin unravels why he’s not welcome anymore, strange things begin to happen.

Restraint

I won’t lie: the body count is high and there are some nasty mind-control things going on that had echoes of John Wyndham’s classic sci-fi tale The Midwich Cuckoos.

But Cumming handles it with a restraint that allows the reader to accept the unbelievable as entirely credible.

Just one minor niggle though: the ending fast forwards the reader into Martin’s future. I’d have preferred a full-blown sequel.

Review by Sue Featherstone.

Available to buy on Amazon.