I met Stuart whilst we were at the UK meet and had a nice chat with him about the perils or positives of self-publishing. Body of Water is (I think) his first self-published novel and I was keen to read.
The story is set partly in London and partly in Orkney. The first part, set in London, follows our hero Leven through his late teens. He's had a troubled childhood passed from foster home to foster home when his anger issues meant that he was difficult to reach. He finally finds love and acceptance with Ruth and Alex when tragedy strikes, leaving Leven bewildered and grieving. His real father contacts him and Leven travels to Orkney, where the second part of the novel takes place. Here Leven discovers some astounding truths about himself.
As I said, this is a novel in two parts. The part in London reads almost like a contemporary romance, especially as much of it revolves around Leven's romantic relationship with his neighbour, Shaun. When things go wrong and Leven moves to Orkney, then the story shifts into a spooky paranormal. Whilst I enjoyed both parts, they sat rather uneasily together, especially because Leven leaves behind a lot of loose ends in London which are never tied up. Having said that, a quick look at the blurb for book 2 possibly shows that these will be dealt with in that book, so maybe I have to be patient! The straightforward style of the opening changes to a mysterious and disorientating narrative when Leven moves to Orkney. This was both a good and bad point for me because whilst I appreciated the way that the author was withholding information from the reader through Leven's confusion, and that stylistically it was a very interesting way to use the narrative, I found it a little frustrating to work out what was happening at times.
Leven himself is an intriguing character. He's on the cusp of manhood, and I thought the author had done a good job in showing the conflicting emotions that brings. In a way he's very immature, often flying into tempers or acting impetuously, but that again fit well with his age and also the problems he's had in life. At first his relationship with Dom is a mix of hate and fascination, which added to Leven's confusion of being essentially alone on a strange island where the locals are less than helpful. He turns to Dom, almost against his will, and that reliance gradually becomes much more. The first person narrative, and also because Dom is a man of very few words, means that Dom remains a bit of a shadowy figure, but their romance still worked for me, perhaps more so because it was so gradual and carefully drawn.
One thing I was looking forward to reading about was the Orkney setting. I have relatives on one of the smaller Orkney islands I was looking forward to reading the descriptions of place. In the end that was a little disappointing, possibly because the author hadn't been specific about which island Leven visits making it more of a generic setting than I would have liked, but I thought the way that the sea was shown to be important and the descriptions of the wildness were realistic. Much of the action happens at night which adds to the strangeness of the setting and the feeling of alienation that Leven feels about Orkney and its people.
The paranormal part of the story was the strongest aspect for me, especially because it tackled an unusual theme and the weirdness that Leven feels about the events which unfold in Orkney gave this part of the book a slight chill in terms of the tone. As Leven moves further towards the truth about himself, the pace of the book picks up, leading to an exciting conclusion which managed to be both romantic and attention-grabbing.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, despite my occasional frustrations. I'm certainly intrigued enough with this story to want to read book two. I'm giving Body of Water a grade of Very Good and recommend it to those who want to read an intriguing paranormal with an unusual setting.
Buy this book HERE.