Thursday, April 02, 2015

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Black Light by K. A. Bedford - Reviewed

It's twelve years since Ruth Black was notified that her husband had been killed, one of many casualties during the Great War but even now how he died remains a mystery. An eccentric woman of means, she has moved to the sleepy coastal fishing town of Pelican River in Western Australia where, cossetted by her servants, she writes 'scientific romances' and is making a new life. Her comfortable existence is shattered by the arrival of her Aunt Julia warning that she has visions showing Ruth's life is in danger. Initially sceptical, Ruth and her friend Gordon Duncombe, soon realise Julia is not exaggerating. But who would hate her so much?  The three find themselves in a desperate race to stop the unknown enemy from carrying out his plan.

K. A. Bedford is better known for his science fiction - his Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait is one of my all time favourites - so Black Light, a paranormal thriller, is something of a departure but he's definitely nailed it. The meticulously researched 1920s setting is detailed but not laboured and it anchors the story in reality. That said there's a lot going on in this world that is unexpected and outside our familiar existence. There are the elves, accidentally brought by the early colonists and slowly fading away so far from their native soil, and magic - both black and white but equally dangerous. Against this background there are unanswered questions from Ruth's past and the malevolence of her pursuer which together combine to make a gripping story. The author taps into many of the ideas occupying intellectuals in the early part of the twentieth century like spiritualism ( a favourite interest of Arthur Conan Doyle), time travel (with a nod to H. G. Wells) and science which prompted the beginnings of science fiction (Ruth writes 'scientific romances', an early name for science fiction).

I liked much about this novel. In particular, I like Ruth who is not afraid to ignore societal norms - she wears 'mannish' clothes and has unfashionably short hair - although she hides the insecurities that living her life the way she wants has caused. At the same time she is intelligent, brave and thoughtful and we can see why she is beloved by those who are prepared to accept her as she is. I'd very much like to hear more from Ruth.

Black Light was published in January 2015 by Fremantle Press and is available from the publisher, and other booksellers as a paperback and an ebook and will be available from from June 1. Highly recommended.

No comments: