Soon it will be April when fellow Thornberrian Simon Hacker and I are joining forces for a World Book Night event, and so I thought it was about time I read Polar Nights, his comedy thriller set in the far North of Scotland which came out last month. From the outset it was clear that Simon’s prose was going to pack a punch (well he’s a journalist, so is that a pen name or a case of nominative determinism? – I must remember to ask!) And the action was soon under way with a wonderfully salty-dog fisherman doomed (you need to say that with the right accent) to be an early victim of the iceberg that washes up on the coast of Sutherland complete with resident polar bear. The fisherman’s demise is the cue for the arrival of a host of characters winging there way to Wick, including doughty Rebecca, working for a satellite tv station and Dan, an environmentalist with an agenda of his own that soon expands to include Rebecca. The new arrivals – (that includes the bear) also have to contend with an even more colourful cast of locals, including a gun-toting mad aristo, a dour policeman who may be mad too and a poet with a chip on his shoulder the size of Ben Nevis. And did I mention he was definitely deranged? Last but not least, we also get to meet the bear ( perfectly sane as bears go, just a bit disorientated). For a short time I thought I might succumb to colourful character and punchy-prose overload but once the bear starts to move so does the story, and it really is a fun read with plenty of high jinks, simmering passion and just the right amount of plot convolution. Oddly it was the very un-mad Dan whom I found least convincing character, but then it usually is the baddies who get the best parts. And I’m glad to say it’s the bear who has the last laugh, or maybe ‘Aw’ moment. As a Scot who has failed to get past Inverness, I was also intrigued to get a glimpse of this most northerly tip of the British Isles.
Thriller? Well sort of, but there’s also a strong dash of romcom and after getting to know the bear I was a tiny bit disappointed the ending didn’t pose more in the way of questions. But this really is a fun read that will appeal to both sexes and anyone who’s more in teh mood for a Highland Fling rather than a tranche of tartan noir.
By the way, for anyone on the right wavelengths (do they stil have wavelengths?) Simon is being interviewed by Claire Carter on Radio Gloucestershire on Friday March 15th at 3 pm. Should be interesting!