"The Purified" by C. F. Peterson is a high-octane thriller that sets off at speed and never relents until it reaches its conclusion, numerous entertaining twists and turns later. Set in the fictional village of Duncul in the north-west Highlands, it picks up the story of Eamon Ansgar, who in the author's previous novel "Errant Blood" returned to his childhood home at Duncul Castle after the death of his father to take over as laird. There he met once more Rona, the girl he had spent years trying to forget. Things have moved on, with Eamon and Rona married and caring for their baby son in Duncul Castle.
In other ways, life in and around Duncul is no more settled now than it was in the previous book. This small part of the Highlands is experiencing conflict between a commune of religious fundamentalists who have set up their base here and the neighbouring landowner, who wants to rewild his estate and reintroduce wolves to the landscape: and who will apparently stop at nothing to clear the fundamentalists out of his way now they have refused his offers to buy them out. Add into the mix an odd group of German anarchists; a Scottish scallop-diver who also has anarchistic tendencies; representatives of a middle-eastern security service; an African connection; a police force that is at best a bit dim and at worst working to its own agenda; a neighbour from hell who sees all that goes on in her part of the village; and a mysterious watcher who has a rather different perspective on everything but says nothing.
This is a book it would be easy to ruin with spoilers, but it does no harm to say that matters to come to a head with a brutal double murder in the village that may or may not be homophobic. But, as the blurb on the rear cover says, "something worse than a body has been found beneath the waters of The Minch, something that should never have been brought to the surface, and now it is not just TV crews that are watching the village." As we suggested in the opening paragraph, the action is frenetic throughout and you get the impression that just about every character is visiting violence on someone else (and/or is having it visited on them) at some point in the book.
There's a sense in which you simply have to suspend disbelief and and commit to what is actually a highly enjoyable ride. The slight feeling of unreality that surrounds the action is perhaps made more pronounced by its fictional setting. It's very much a personal thing, but I tend to find fictional settings distracting in the absence of a map because of the greater effort needed when reading a book to work out geographical relationships, which are essential to following a story like this. In reviewing "Errant Blood" we described the setting as "somewhere on the west coast, roughly opposite Inverness and near the head of a 20-mile long sea loch. There's a vagueness about the location that is clearly deliberate, and a reference to it being 30 miles from Mallaig in this latest book again had me turning to maps of the area. To the extent it can be tied down to anywhere in particular - and it is possible it can't - then my money is on Duncul being a much larger settlement on the site of Kinloch Hourn, though the distances don't really work. It doesn't actually matter, but do you see what I mean about it distracting attention from the story?