The year is 1829. Protagonist, Edinburgh doctor Mungo Lyon, is sent to the west coast of Scotland to investigate a shipwreck. Having suffered some professional ignominy, Lyon is pleased to cast his mind elsewhere. But as he starts to delve deeper into the curious case of the shipwreck, and the death of a lighthouse keeper, it is quickly evident that he has chanced upon something far out of his depth. His travels take him from Greenock to Kingston, and Lyon must outsmart the villians – quick!
This is lawyer Stephen O’Rourke’s debut novel. A win in a Creative Writing Competition has led to this first Mungo Lyon book, and is seems it most certainly isn’t the last. The author does a fine job of picking up strands of famous historical events of the era in which the book is set. Fabled characters come to life and take on integral parts of the storyline. Fans of the Ambrose Parry novels will enjoy this as there are close parallels.
Edinburgh in 1829 was a vibrant seat of academia and learning, but also mishaps and crime. Through his characters, O’Rourke peels back layers of Edinburgh society – from the genteel to the crude. Considering this is his debut, O’Rourke positions himself as a fine writer, with a keen eye for the word of law; probably from experience. But also accompanied by that is thorough research of the time the book is set in.
However, Lyon’s adventures go from the slightly pedestrian to revolutionary very quickly. There is an element of ludicrousness in the climax that does not have enough build up to be believable. The novel therefore hovers on a fine line between reality and fantasy.