Isabeau Martin is a lonely, insecure woman whose life has been shaped by a deserting father and chronically depressed mother. She is asthmatic and grew up with the standing stones of Carnac as her only friends, avoiding other children, and sharing her thoughts with a massive menhir called the Manio giant. After her father left, her mother took Isabeau away from Carnac. At the start of this novel she has returned after her mother’s death and taken up the post of the Carnac Deputy Postmaster. She is still shy, reclusive and asthmatic, and hoping to discover what happened to her father.
Dame Ngaio Marsh wrote the first few chapters, the title and the timeframe for this novel, which is set in New Zealand during the Second World War, and Stella Duffy has solved the crime and completed the novel for publication. And you would be hard pressed to find where one stops and the other starts.
“And it’s like: you know on kind of a formal level that there’s laws, but then when you’re actually on the street and see it through their eyes, you realise it’s just dog-eat-dog, same as everything else” – even the cops don’t have a clear line on right and wrong in Ben Sanders’ latest novel, The stakes, and most of his characters are conflicted, confused and making their moves “So you feel the strange weight of the strange moment”.