The Runner and the Saint by Dave Duncan

This is a book that grew on me the further into it I got. The author demonstrates a fluid, intelligent writing style and I considered it to be very well written.Image
It is very much a plot driven story with only brief descriptions of the characters and their surroundings, rather than paragraphs devoted to a single mountain. This isn’t literary fiction; the focus is on the action. Neverthless, the main character is likeable and believable and there are some hints towards the end of the story of character/life developments in later books. However, at 118 pages, it is quite short and I think that there was room for developing some of the relationships and allowing the reader to get to know some of the lesser characters. The plot itself is well constructed and, although slow to start, carries itself through to a plausible and satisfying conclusion, albeit one that leaves the way open for a sequel.
At times, I found myself having to delve deep into my memory to recall the meaning of some of the specifically Scottish tribal terms used or the historical/social significance of piece of the text and I think, without a basic understanding of Scottish history and tribal traditions a reader might find some parts difficult to understand and enjoy, particularly with regard to the meaning of some of the ancient titles and social positions. There is a very brief explanation at the end of the book (which I think would be more useful at the beginning) but I think that a few in text notes would be more helpful.
Apart from that, my only other criticism is regarding the front cover, which seems too modern for the story and would ordinarily have put me off.

The Lighthouse (fourth instalment)

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“Mum, Pat’s here.”

From somewhere at the back of the chalet she heard her mother’s voice calling back. “Come in Pat. I’m just packing up.”

Helen entered the main living area and smiled at Pat O’Boyle.  “No Margaret?”

“She’s got things to do and I’m in the way,” he said, rolling his eyes in sheepish innocence.  “She thought you might have things to do as well and I could take the children out of your way for a while.”

“Oh, what a shame, David’s gone out to play with friends.  I’m sure Annie would like to go out for a while though.  Wouldn’t you love?”

Helen walked over to the table and looked down at Annie’s painting.  “Oh Annie, that’s lovely.”

The painting showed a red and white striped pole in the middle of a blue sky with a bright yellow sun in the top left corner, its spiky rays descending far down into a rectangle of green.  Dotted around the rectangle were various other shapes.

“What’s that?” asked Pat, pointing to a figure apparently doing some kind of jig.

“That’s David.  He’s doing Keepy-uppies,” Annie replied pointing to the brown blob just above the figure’s knee.

“Is this me?” asked Helen, indicating what was clearly a woman, dressed like the ones on the signs for the ladies’ toilets, reading an oversized book.

“Yep and that’s me and Daddy.”  Annie pointed at a mass of limbs. “Daddy’s giving me an aeroplane ride.”

Helen smiled at her daughter.  She loved to see her happy.

Pat O’Boyle broke in.  “So, do you fancy going out for a while then?”

The truth was that she didn’t but to say so would be rude. “Are you coming?” she asked her mother.

“No, I’ve got packing to do and I need to clean up this place so that they’ve got no excuse to keep our deposit.”

“Can’t I stay here with you?”

“Don’t be silly.  You’d be bored.  Anyway, not an hour ago you were complaining to go out.”

“I know but I don’t want to now.”

“No arguments, you shouldn’t be stuck indoors on a day like this.”

“Come on, we’ll go and play some ball and then I’ll buy you an ice-cream.”

Annie had no choice.  Reluctantly she followed Pat out of the chalet and onto the country road that led to the old lighthouse, passing the O’Boyle’s chalet on the way and waving to Margaret who stood at the kitchen sink by the window.  They walked along the lane, a man in his holiday sandals, chatting away jovially to a small child at his side in her pink summer dress.  It was a common enough sight in any seaside town.