Solomon Creed | Simon Toyne | 2015 | HarperCollins | 480p | Review copy | Buy the book
Simon Toyne is, without doubt, one of the most exciting and original thriller authors writing today. The superb Sanctus trilogy is now complete and I know I haven’t been alone in wondering where he would next turn his pen. The time to find out has arrived. I was so chuffed to be invited to open the blog tour for Solomon Creed. Sanctus was the very first book I reviewed on For Winter Nights, all the way back in July 2011, and four years on Simon Toyne has done it again, producing a standout thriller, in fact my thriller of 2015.
A small plane crashes in Arizona, its flames spreading relentlessly across the bush towards the small town of Redemption. One man is spared from the fire. Barefoot, he walks from the burning plane towards the town, his memory gone, no idea of his own name. Inside his pocket is a sepia book, ‘Riches and Redemption: The Making of a Town; A Memoir by the Reverend Jack ‘King’ Cassidy’, Redemption’s founding citizen. It is inscribed inside for Solomon Creed, gifted by James Coronado. When the police pick the stranger up on the edge of the town, he has no idea if Solomon Creed is his name, although he can think of no reason why it shouldn’t be, but he does know that something drives him to find James Coronado, to save him. But Solomon learns that James was buried that very morning. How can he save a man that is already dead?
Redemption is a small town, cut off by desert, its daily life controlled by a small group of men, including its police chief, Morgan, and Mayor Cassidy, descended from the founder of the town. The heart of the town, though, beats through its women, such as Holly Coronado, the wife of the buried man, and the blind and strong Ellie Tucker. The stranger causes a commotion amongst the community, so close to the burial of Coronado, their confusion and grief compounded by fear as the crashed plane’s inferno reaches ever forwards to claim the town for itself. But there is another force at work in Redemption. A Mexican drugs lord is coming to town. Vengeance is on his mind. No-one will be safe, especially not the bare-footed stranger with no name and no memory who only knows he must save a dead man.
Solomon Creed is an extraordinarily atmospheric thriller. From its fiery opening chapter, the novel throws us into the mystery of Solomon and matches it with the enigma of a town that has reached its judgement day. The town leaders have nowhere to turn, grabbing hold of Solomon Creed, as if he can offer them salvation, while doing all they can to avoid the flames and the Mexican drug lord. But who is to say that Solomon is their saviour? Perhaps he is the biggest monster of them all. The novel immerses us in the fear and dread and confusion of the times. We feel the heat of the desert and the approaching, resolute fire on our skin. The menace is as overpowering as the uncertainty and bewilderment. The tension threatens to tear the town apart even as it is about to burn.
This is a novel of multiple, rich layers. We travel from the present into the past via the journal of Redemption’s founder Jack Cassidy. Through these extracts we are given a glimpse into the town’s sorry past, a mirror of its godforsaken present. This is the Wild West brought into the present. Its history is alive. There is no beyond the town. We are trapped in a bubble of flame. A plane crashes from the sky. A man emerges to walk into the town. One senses that no-one will be allowed to leave.
Simon Toyne is a fantastic storyteller. His thrillers depict imaginary places that feel vividly real. In the Sanctus novels, Ruin was a perfectly imagined Near Eastern city, a religious centre and tourist destination. Now, in Solomon Creed, we have Redemption, a small desert town, cut off from the present, alive with the spirit of the Wild West and populated by characters and mystery that do its striking setting and powerful atmosphere full justice. Events unfold in the twistiest of fashions, keeping this reader at least on the edge of their seat until well into the night. It is such an exciting book!
Solomon Creed is an enormously clever and dramatic thriller. Its shifting perspectives, voices moving from the past to the present, the shimmer between the known and the unknown, contribute to one of the most atmospheric reads that I have had in a long time. Solomon Creed himself is the epitome of the intriguing hero, a mystery as much to himself as he is to us. I have no hesitation at all, even with some weeks to go, in declaring Solomon Creed my top thriller of 2015.
I’m so proud to open the tour. For other stops on the tour, please take a look at the poster below.