Unwinding Time by James Stoddah



Beautifully written mystery flavoured novel by master of suspense, James Stoddah. The story begins with our first-person narrator, Kayleigh, driving through snow on the way to her grandfather’s house near Penrith. She is a gentle narrator, guiding us through the story but holding back almost as much as she tells; hers is a world of secrets and shadows, both inside and out.

The first moment of action in the book unfolds with a delicious slowness, and we soon realise that this a pattern that holds true for the novel as a whole. Just as Kayleigh slowly unfolds secrets from her past, so too do clues appear at every turn: a sketch found in an old cupboard leads to a visit to a medieval fortress, new characters, who behave very strangely indeed, bring new mysteries. Each clue breeds another and the plot is like a well-crafted hydra. This teasing trail of breadcrumbs makes Unwinding Time very difficult to put down.

Perhaps the only fault with this poignant unfurling of plot is that there are moments when the plot loses its speed altogether. The lull could be in the form of a plane journey rendered in too much detail, or a meal that Stoddah lingers over for slightly too long. These moments are few and far between, however.

Overall, this book has a lovely sense of place and is infused with art and Kayleigh’s talent for painting. This results in some beautiful descriptions and rich evocations of locations and colours which add to the vibrancy of the mystery. Unwinding Time is no break-neck thriller, but it is a very tense and enjoyable read.