I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond today – a novel I was immediately attracted to when I read the blurb.
Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…
Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illie Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illie has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…
The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.
The novel opens with our unnamed protagonist attending the funeral of his friend and mentor, Francis Benthem. He is the only person in attendance, until a small convoy of four strangers (to the narrator, at least) arrive to pay their last respects. Their identities and their relationship to Francis is unknown, but it’s clear to the reader that there are questions to be answered here. I think that this opening scene is extremely clever. It’s deceptively simple, but immediately raises questions as to who the narrator is, what Francis was doing in Cyprus, and, of course, who these attendees at his funeral are. It sets the tone for the whole novel, which has an almost dreamlike quality – there’s something surreal about it all, and I was immediately captivated by the slightly strange atmosphere. It’s obvious that things aren’t quite what they seem, and this successfully pulls the reader into the story.
Set on Cyprus, I thought that the location worked brilliantly. The island’s history is new to me, but Raymond incorporates this into the novel in such a way that I’m interested to learn more whilst knowing enough to ensure that the story makes sense. I won’t go into the details because this history is central to the plot, but I loved the way that what initially seemed to be a random if striking setting came to be such a key feature, and so unexpectedly. It takes a little while for the relevance of the island’s past to become apparent, but it’s a real “a ha!” moment, as things start to become clearer to the reader.
I found the pace to be pleasingly slow as the narrator – who goes unnamed throughout the whole novel – begins to understand Francis’s work, and how he might continue with this unusual project. Whilst unravelling this mystery, he also has his own problems to deal with, and I think that the opportunity to work abroad comes as a welcome relief – the situation with his girlfriend and how to solve that particular problem becoming clearer with distance. Whilst the reader doesn’t know the narrator, there’s plenty of insight into his character and his relative cluelessness comes across as endearing.
The Golden Orphans is a wonderful literary thriller, and I enjoyed the artistic and historic elements to the story which make this a unique tale.
The Golden Orphans is published by Parthian Books. Many thanks to the publisher and to Emma of damppebbles blog tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.
Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour: