Source: Review copy
Publication: 26 December 2018 from Sapere
You can’t outrun murder…
When Lucy Lewis landed herself a reporting job on an idyllic Thai island, she thought she’d found paradise.
But one day her dream turns into a nightmare…
A bomb goes off outside her hostel and there is more than one fatality. Although the local paper she works for is mainly a tourist guide, the phone is soon ringing off the hook with people desperate to hear news of their loved ones.
Together with her editor, Steve Boyd, Lucy finds herself drawn into the investigation.
And things become more complicated when the dead body of someone connected to the paper washes up on the shore.
Was the bomb planted by terrorists? Are the two incidents connected?
Lucy finds herself running in circles as she desperately searches for the key to the mystery…
Running in Circles is a character driven mystery set on a small Thai island where the pace of life is relaxed, hippies can find peace on the beach and life revolves around the beach and beer.
Lucy Lewis answered an ad for a journalist and together with Steve, her editor, they write the weekly freesheet that serves as news on the island. Mostly event driven, they don’t earn much, but advertising revenue from hotels and tourist activity centres provide a steady, if small, income stream. It may not be glamorous or cutting edge, but the pace is such that the whole way of life lends itself to relaxing and taking life as it comes.
Steve and Lucy rub along well enough. It’s clear early on that both are on the island because they have escaped from something in their pasts that they don’t want to talk about, and this place is ideal for that.
But this haven of tranquillity is suddenly and horribly ruptured when during the night, there’s an explosion across the road from the hostel that is serving as Lucy’s home. There are multiple deaths – mainly people who were in the nearby bars – and suddenly Lucy and Steve have a serious news story on their hands and no real idea what to do with it.
Claire Gray captures very well the sense of detachment and subsequent isolation that Lucy feels. Though we don’t yet know why Lucy has fled the UK, we can see that this traumatic experience has impacted on her perhaps more harshly than it would have due to the fact that she has been suppressing her emotions from an earlier stressful event.
For me, this is what makes this book interesting – that sense of two people who have to all intents and purposes run away from stressful situations now having to face up massive stress in the place where they least expected it.
As Lucy and Steve try to find out what has happened and who is behind the bombing, another body washes up on the sea shore. A local businessman, not universally liked by his employees, has been murdered. Is this connected to the bombing, or something quite different?
From here the story gathers a little pace and Steve and Lucy find themselves, somewhat inexpertly, running in circles to find out what has happened.
Gray focuses on her two main protagonists somewhat to the detriment of other characters in the book and I think she could have wrung more from the ancillary characters and the humid setting of much of the novel.
Verdict: A debut with two introverted characters makes this an interesting and intriguing read, but the mystery and suspense elements could be ramped up.
Claire Gray lives in the South Lakes with her husband and two small children. She studied Creative Writing at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts, which no longer exists, having been absorbed by the University of Cumbria. She graduated in 2006 and then went on to complete a journalism course at Darlington College.
That same year, she won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North, and her work was featured in their anthology, entitled Ten Years On. Claire now works as a freelance copywriter and continues to write short stories, some of which have been published in magazines and online.
Recently, she has been guest editor for the prose section of SpeakEasy Magazine, which showcases Cumbrian writing.