On the train I read Blood Hunt but Neil M. Gunn, which I bought a couple of years ago because I was attracted by the cover and blurb, but had never quite found the right moment to read. Now, of course, I wish I’d read it sooner. Published in 1952, it’s beautifully written, with vivid characters and a strong sense of place, and deserves to be better known. The protagonist is Sandy, a former seaman who has retired to a peaceful life in a highland croft, only to have it disturbed by violence after a murder is committed in the local town and the murderer, who he knew as a boy, comes to him for help. Sandy resents the intrusion, but recoils from the thought for the further loss of young life that must occur if the man is caught and hanged. By this point in his life, Gunn had become interested in Zen Buddhism and there is a certain amount of mysticism in Sandy’s reflection on death and life and the natural world. There’s also a good deal of humour in the story, and a certain earthiness. I saw the final resolution coming, but the process of getting there was more than satisfactory. I’ll certainly be reading more novels by Gunn.
*The picturesque rather than miserable variety of Dickensian.