Desert Isle Keeper
Foxglove Copse is the fifth book in Riptide Publishing’s Porthkennack universe, and in my opinion it’s the best so far. The books in the Porthkennack series are all standalones, set in and around the Cornish town of the same name, and this one, written by Alex Beecroft, includes all the elements I love in a novel.
Sam Atkins suffers badly from anxiety and panic attacks. Although the reader’s only experience of his family is through the occasional Skype conversations Sam has with his mother, it is easy to extrapolate the life he has had with his cold, wealthy and intolerant family from her reactions. After an extreme panic attack, Sam decides to leave his high powered job in the City of London and commits himself to life on the road in a small van.
After six months, Sam’s savings are running out and he is starting to think he may have to give in and go back to his emotionally abusive family. Looking for a place to park his van and hide while he considers his options, he finds the ideal place at the edge of a field containing old stones. He parks the van in a shady copse and takes a walk to look around. Shockingly, he discovers the body of a ritualistically killed sheep, and while he tries to work out the weird symbols traced around the poor anima,l he is discovered, looking very guilty, by the sheep’s owner, Jennifer. Along with Jennifer is her nephew, Ruan Gwynn.
Ruan is unlike anyone Sam has met before, he is kind-hearted, generous of spirit and part of a large supportive family and clan. Ruan and Sam feel an instant attraction and Ruan desperately doesn’t want to believe that Sam is involved in this horror. As soon as Ruan sees Sam’s miserable solitary existence in his van and learns more about him, he wants to save Sam and show him the warmth and love that has been missing in his life. As they become more involved with one another, there are more sheep killings and then the suicide of a young girl, both of which overshadow their lives. It seems they must help find out what is going on before Ruan can help Sam find a better life – with him.
The plot gets more intricate and is very intriguing. The author manages to allow the ancient setting and beliefs to coalesce with the very modern into a unique mystery that also helps Sam. This is done through a beautifully descriptive narrative:
Sam watched the jellyfish-like domes of the umbrellas and their silver tendrils of water with a sense that something bruised inside him was beginning to heal…
and the use of ancient words like ‘menhir’ sprinkled through the modern English.
We also meet another clan in this area, whose motives and activities are not always legal or acceptable, but they too have a strong family connection and are protective of their own. Although they cannot be described as homely or nice they have a strict code of conduct and morals which they apply to all.
Sam and Ruan gather around them a group of young people who are also affected by what is happening and it was then that the theme running through this story struck me. Families are at the heart of it; how they can destroy you, protect you, love you and tie you to a place. Foxglove Copse also shows how some of the best families are those we make ourselves and not necessarily those that are biologically created.
There is a lot going on in this novel and I loved it. I empathised greatly with Sam and the descriptions of his panic attacks and anxiety were accurate and very sensitively done. One final observation; this story is romantic and loving, and all one would wish to read about two young men falling in love. It wasn’t until I thought back that I realised there are no overt sex scenes. The burgeoning sexual side to their relationship is written perfectly for Sam and Ruan’s lovely story. I highly recommend this charming romantic mystery.