‘The Island’ will have you rethinking your vacation

In 2019 Adrian McKinty had his first blockbuster book with “The Chain.” On those rare occasions when novelists have books that establish them on the literary map they quickly encounter new challenges; to duplicate that level of success. It isn’t easy.

There’s added pressure to equal or even exceed sales figures for their one big book. The literary landscape is littered with the names of writers who tried but were unable to satisfy outsized expectations from readers who loved their breakout books then set impossible standards for any follow-up efforts.

Paula Hawkins burst out of obscurity with “The Girl on the Train.” Do you remember her next book? Dan Brown has sold millions of copies of “The DaVinci Code.” His next book also sold millions on the strength of that previous book. So do you remember the title of his follow-up? Probably not.

Do you see what I mean? Adrian McKinty just published “The Island” and this reviewer believes that this book will be even bigger for Adrian than “The Chain.” . It’s that good. McKinty has written many excellent books, including a series of crime novels featuring Irish cop Sean Duffy. None of his books prior to “The Chain” sold very well, though.

“The Chain” is a standalone novel. “The Island” is also. McKinty is a native of Northern Ireland. He spent some years in Australia and that is where this new story takes place. As it begins an American family from Seattle is vacationing in Australia.

Heather Baxter is our central character. She is the young wife of a much older doctor. She had gained an instant family. Tom Baxter was widowed with two children. The boy is a pre-teen. The girl is a teenager. Neither one is enamored with their stepmother.

Dr. Baxter had parlayed a trip to a medical conference into a family vacation. They embark on a day trip to do some sight seeing. Things aren’t going well. The kids are bickering, whining, complaining.

As they are driving along they are hoping to spot a kangaroo or even a koala. They decide to make a pit stop and while they are doing that they encounter some guys who are getting ready to board a ferry to a small coastal island.

They begin conversing and find out it is a private island owned by one family. The Baxter’s wonder if there are koalas there. Initially the men put them off. Then the doctor offers them a large amount of money. They all take the ferry across for a brief visit. Now the trap has been sprung.

As they are driving on the island searching for wildlife something unfortunate occurs. Things quickly go from bad to worse. Ma, the sinister matriarch, orders her family to hunt the Baxter’s. Heather and her two stepchildren spend most of the book eluding their pursuers. By the conclusion of this thrill ride Heather’s stepchildren admire and respect her. Adrian McKinty has smacked it out of the park again with “The Island.”

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.com.

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