The Interpretations by David Shaw Mackanzie

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The Interpretations by David Shaw Mackanzie

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: C E Stanway
Reviewed by C E Stanway
Summary: After the disappearance of Tom Kingsmill, the small town of Dalmore is changed. The Interpretations chronicles the lives of Tom's friends left behind.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 325 Date: June 2013
Publisher: Sandstone Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1908737267

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The Interpretations is the second novel written by David Shaw Mackanzie. It's set in the Scottish Highlands, in the remote town of Dalmore, after the strange disappearance of one of its residents. The book is split into two parts. Part one takes place in the late 1980s while part two takes place in the early 2000s. In the first part we meet Tom Kingsmill, born and bred in Dalmore. Tom participates in a race with his local running club. Part of the race route Tom is expected to run leads over the newly-built bridge connecting Dalmore with the outside world. This bridge is the one Reverend McFarren has an obsessive hatred for. He believes the bridge is a bad omen after two teenagers jumped to their deaths just the month before. No one could have predicted the way in which the reverend's hunch is proved correct. Tom fails to finish the race - in fact, he has vanished entirely.

Tom's disappearance sets the story in motion, and readers may hope for a crime thriller, but they'll be disappointed with the book's slow pace. Instead of focusing on Tom's disappearance (quickly written off by the local police as suicide), The Interpretations flits between three characters. We meet Mike, Tom's room-mate, who can't believe his friend is dead, a journalist who is covering Tom's disappearance at the local newspaper and Father McFarren, who has been collecting information about the new bridge where Tom was last seen in a bid to get it demolished. In fact, the story of the bridge takes up over a third of the novel, and I found passages relatin to it quite tedious.

I am happy to say that in part two, the bridge hardly features at all. This part is set in 2000, twenty years after Tom vanished. That is not the only change to occur in Dalmore: as a reader I took delight in perceiving the way the town and its people had altered over the course of two decades. This is especially evident in our three main characters, whose lives have been shaped by the unsolved mystery.

In some aspects, I found The Interpretations quite slow and dull. However, the second half in particular contained some fascinating insight into small-town life and all the familiarity and prejudice that goes along with it. I found the mystery of Tom's disappearance interesting but felt the novel didn't pay enough attention to it. I wish the author had focused less on the bridge, and more on building on the tension surrounding Tom's disappearance. However, for patient readers, I think The Interpretations offers a compelling mystery, but most of all, an incisive take on the inhabitants of a small town over twenty years.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Cut Her Dead by Iain McDowall.

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