Adrian McKinty has made a more than successful transition from his noir, historical Sean Duffy series of procedurals to the world of high tension thrillers. The Chain put its characters through the ethical ringer as they dealt with a sophisticated and terrifying kidnapping ring. His follow up, The Island is another page turning thriller, driven by moral conundrums but they are more immediate and are literally life and death decisions.
A quick set up finds Seattle-based surgeon Tom with his new much younger wife Heather and two teenage children Olive and Owen in Australia for a conference. On a day trip out of Melbourne they find themselves on a small private island to go animal spotting. But a fatal accident followed by a questionable decision puts the family in the crosshairs of the island’s matriarch (Ma) and her unhinged brood and Heather finds herself digging deep to try and save the family. From that point on this is a Deliverance-style survival thriller that does not let up as Heather draws on her own island upbringing to bring the fight to the family.
The Island is a one note thriller but McKinty plays that note for all it is worth. It pits the plucky young heroine and her two charges against a group of seemingly implacable, well-resourced bloodthirsty rednecks. Only one of the hunters, Matt, who married into the family, is given a personality other than crazy killer but even he cannot escape picking a side due to the vortex of violence that this confrontation creates. And there is plenty of violence. McKinty makes sure that readers understand the stakes and there are scenes that are not for the faint hearted.
McKinty knows how to keep the pages turning. Tense action scenes created from short punchy sentences. To the point at one stage where the text reduces down to almost poetic fragments:
Up the beach
Through the flies
In the sun.
In the red Southern Hemisphere sun.
Sunburn on sunburn.
Up the beach.
There is plenty of Australian rural crime fiction that tries to dig into the complexity and challenges of the Australian rural experience. The Island is not that. It is a thriller built on a moral failing populated by familiar character types and driven by a propulsive, cliffhanger-filled plot.So if readers are after a fast paced, page turning thriller, The Island well and truly hits the spot.