Wednesday, October 24, 2007

book review: One Smooth Stone by Marcia Laycock


Title: One Smooth Stone
Author: Marcia Lee Laycock
Publisher: Castle Quay Books, October 2007
Genre: Suspense,
ISBN 189486034-9

When 21-year-old Alex sees an outboard beach just below his isolated Yukon cabin, he’s apprehensive. But little does he know how the appearance of the lawyer from Seattle will change his life. Against his better judgment he leaves with George and is soon facing not only all his old demons but discovering new ones as well. Even the intriguing and beautiful Kenni plus the promise of more money than he’s ever dreamed of don’t have the power to keep him in one place. And so in One Smooth Stone, a debut novel by Marcia Lee Laycock, we have the gripping tale of a young man fleeing from his past, only to encounter Someone who keeps dogging his steps at every turn.

Laycock’s plot is twisty and I was glued to the story to the last page. Laycock enhances suspense by teasing with just enough information about what is happening elsewhere to make the reader expect calamity around every turn. The chain of events feels natural, and trouble heaped upon trouble keeps the pace brisk. The tight plot is enhanced by Laycock’s efficient story-telling style. Her prose isn’t showy and doesn’t get in the way of the story’s spell.

The characters are another strength of this book. I felt immediate and continuing sympathy for Alex as well as Kenni. Gil, a character who comes to prominence midway through the book, seemed more contradictory to me, however. His roughness made it hard to believe he had ever lived the life he claimed. Bill and Ruby, minor characters whose shadows tower over the whole story, are brilliant in their blackness.

Laycock’s own experience of living in the Yukon no doubt helped in her depiction of Yukon life, which is not only plausible but colorful. The barren landscape, peopled with more than its share of social misfits who then face the challenge of surviving some of the cruelest conditions on earth, feels completely believable. As well, the stark, isolation sets off the rugged strength of the characters and fits this somber story well.

For a somber tale it is, dealing as it does with some not very pretty aspects of life – abuse (physical and sexual), abortion, family – and lack of it – anger, revenge and, finally, forgiveness and a new beginning. The book is boldly Christian in the answers it gives and the reader is left with a definite aftertaste of hope. If I would have one criticism, it would be that some of the pastor / counselor talks seemed a bit preachy – although I don’t know how Laycock could have explained many of the concepts she did without going beyond small-talk conversation.

All in all, the trim (252 page) One Smooth Stone would make a perfect stuffer for a Christmas stocking and a lively winter companion on a blowy night.

Read an excerpt here:

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