Monday 3 September 2018

The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond @GaryRaymond_ @parthianbooks #TheGoldenOrphans

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret...
Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he's created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder... 
The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.

The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond was published by Parthian Books in paperback on 1 June 2018. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review.

This is a very slim novel at just 155 pages, but my goodness it's one hell of a read. Probably a little out of my usual comfort zone, I admit that I was attract by the Cypriot setting. Once I'd read the first couple of pages, I was well and truly sucked in. It's intriguing and clever and keeps the reader firmly on their toes.

I spent many summers in Ayia Napa, Cyprus and I do love to read a book where I can recognise the setting. I was at the opening night of the Castle nightclub, oh so many moons ago, and some of the most important parts of the story take place in that dark, steamy club.

An English artist is summoned to the funeral of his mentor. The funeral is in Cyprus and has been paid for by the mysterious Illy Prostavok; a Russian who appears to have plenty of money, and plenty of 'family' staying with him. Our narrator is never named and for me, this added something more to the story, it's full of mystery and intrigue, with characters to doubt and to dislike.

The setting is sublime. Ayia Napa is known as the party capital of Cyprus, yet this author digs deep into the dark underbelly of the town. Uncovering links to the Russian mafia, to drugs, to modern day slavery, it's a hotbed of strange people and strange happenings.

The later parts of the story find our narrator in Famagusta; the complete opposite of Napa in every way. An abandoned place, with cars still on the streets and curtains flapping at empty windows; taken by the Turks when they invaded the island in 1974 and left to rot, slowly ever since. I've stood on the dividing line in Nicosia, and looked over at the empty and desolate place that was once a bustling centre. I took a boat trip to just as near to Famagusta as it is possible to go, and it's clear that in its heyday this was a busy and cosmopolitan town. This author has cleverly used what is now an eerily quiet and deserted town as the setting for the exciting and explosively nail-biting ending to this thrilling story.

I'm aware that I've not talked about the plot and that the Cypriot setting has taken over my thoughts. However, it really is a fast paced literary thriller with a fabulous contemporary narrator who has his own personal issues to contend with as well as trying to discover quite what's going on around him.
There's a dark, quite forbidding feeling about the writing, yet it's packed to the brim with intriguing, excellently created characters.

The Golden Orphans is a great read, I devoured it in one afternoon and was so impressed by the structure, the plot and of course, that incredible setting.  Highly recommended.

Gary Raymond is a novelist, critic, editor and broadcaster. He is one of the founding editors of Wales Arts Review, and has been editor since 2014. 

He is the author of two novels, The Golden Orphans (Parthian, 2018) and For Those Who Come After (Parthian, 2015). 

He is a widely published critic and cultural commentator, and is the presenter of BBC Radio Wales’ The Review Show.

Twitter @GaryRaymond_

No comments:

Post a Comment