In this proudly adult thriller, Curnes (Coping with Ash) details the surprisingly erotic adventures of Heritage Warren Carter III (“Tage”), heir to the Carter Pulp & Paper empire, when he is assigned to visit Wickaninnish—a remote Canadian island—to attempt to catch a business partner who might be embezzling funds from the family’s hotel. Tage, who describes himself as “drunk on existential guilt over what was happening to the planet,” is conflicted about being the face of his family’s “capitalistic and resource-destroying ways,” but with his grandfather about to die of cancer, he agrees to help the company in the hopes of securing his inheritance.
Curnes’s gift for description is evident in his striking portrayal of the singular setting of Wickaninnish Island and its inhabitants—“an Eden so lush, tranquil, and pristine.” The story unfolds in the aftermath of British Columbia’s War in the Woods, a 1993 showdown between loggers and environmental activists. Tage internalizes that conflict, and the tension between his drive for a guilt-free life of simplicity and the lure of easy living thrums constantly throughout the narrative. Here’s a multifaceted protagonist who might be happier if he could embrace superficiality.
Curnes’s intriguing plot starts strong, but the novel’s sweep quickly expands beyond its central mystery, as it devotes pages to local history, ritualistic magic, skinny dipping amid bioluminescent plankton, and the highly detailed blow by blow of sexual liaisons, some of them touched with the occult. (Some of the steamy scenes involve nonconsensual acts with a minor “devil child” described as seducing Tage.) At times the sex overwhelms the promising story of industrial intrigue. Still, beyond his attention to matters of the senses, Curnes admirably crystallizes an unusual voyage of self-discovery and quest for meaning by his unlikely hero. Readers open to graphic sex and environmentalism will find much here that resonates.
Takeaway:This provocative epic boasts an intriguing plot, occult erotica, and serious consideration of environmental themes.
Great for fans of: Winston Graham’s Poldark series, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.
Production grades Cover: B Design and typography: A Illustrations: N/A Editing: A Marketing copy: A