The third novel by Scottish writer Liam Bell is an intriguing historical tale. Stuart was disfigured during the war when his plane caught fire in Malta. He’s long harboured a secret love for Beth, the nurse from his convalescence. In 1961, Beth contacts Stuart because she wants to go to Malta and find Joe, the son of her late husband Victor. Stuart is happy to accompany her, not just for the chance to spend time with Beth, but also because he may be able to take revenge on the man who caused his burns.
A second plot strand follows young Joe in 1941, as his childhood games are interrupted by the news that his father has left the family behind while serving overseas. Back in 1961, it doesn’t take too long for Stuart and Beth to find Joe, but there are revelations to come – not least that Victor is apparently still alive.
I enjoyed reading Man at Sea: it’s briskly paced and evocatively written. Nothing is quite as it seems, so there is plenty to uncover in a relatively short space. Bell’s characters have to face the question of whether it’s better to hold on to the past or let go. They come to something of a conclusion on that question in a quietly poignant ending.
Published by Fly on the Wall Press.