Book Review: Kinnara

My copy of Kinnara was gifted to me by the author, Kevin Ansbro, who I’d recently ‘met’ on GoodReads.  Whilst it wasn’t sent as a book to be reviewed, I have Kevin’s blessing to write this review … if nothing else, it helps me build my (small, but growing) collection of book reviews, and hopefully inspires that little voice in your head to declare “oooh, I’d like to read that”.

fiction | magical realism | folklore | suspense | romance

Rating: 3 out of 5.

back cover blurb

Phuket, Thailand, seemed to be the perfect getaway choice for twenty-two-year-old Calum Armstrong: What he saw, and did on that holiday proves to have far- reaching consequences; not only for himself, but also for those closest to him.

In Germany, uncompromising Frankfurt detective, Otto Netzer,is leading the manhunt for a brutal serial killer who preys on heavily-pregnant women…

Neither Calum, nor the killer, yet realise that their destiny lies in the hands of a mythical creature who resides beneath the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.

Author – Kevin Ansbro | Published by – 2QT Limited Publishing in May 2015 | Pages – 312 (paperback)

my thoughts

First things first – the elephant in the room … or perhaps I should say the Kinnara in the room.  The book’s title immediately tweaked my (highly over-developed) nosiness gene, and I immediately leapt to the conclusion Kinnara is a place in Thailand.  Wrong!  After a little light Googling I quickly discovered a Kinnara is a hugely important, and much loved, creature of Buddhist mythology; half human and half bird, who are believed to watch over the well-being of us humans in times of trouble.

Quick double-take … Yep, this is a book with a murderer, and a young lad from Norwich on his hols.  

Kinnara is the perfect book for those of us who like to be kept on our toes; and not so good for those who feel a book needs to be filed under a particular heading.  It’s part romance; part murder-most-foul; part cultural awakening; part mythical fable.  It jumps from one year to another, one location to another, one reality to another.  And yet these seemingly mismatched themes draw closer and closer into the same orbit, the deeper you get into the book.

It all starts in 2011 in Germany with, a grisly murder most foul … the kind of murder that made me question if this really was the book for me.  Whilst I enjoy a jolly good murder, this one – which literally punches you in the gut from the very first paragraph – this was particularly gruesome and took me off guard.  But thankfully he doesn’t appear very often, and I have to admit I can’t help thinking the story would have progressed just as well without him.

Along comes chapter two and suddenly we’re in 2005 in Norwich, with school BFFs Calum and Hannah.  The warmth and depth of their friendship spills from the page, and it’s evident even at this early point that the author intends for these two to become more than friends.  Whilst relationship evolves throughout the book, the chapters involving Hannah and Calum are written with a saccharine simplicity that felt more like they’d been written by the love-struck 15-year-old Hannah.  Hannah and Calum’s characters fill the majority of the book, but as the book progressed I became aware that I was skimming their chapters to get back to those set in Phuket … they were a world apart, and not just on a map!

On Boxing Day 2004 Phuket suffered unimaginable tragedy when the tsunami hit her shores.  In real life, it’s an event we will all remember.  And in the book, it’s so vividly written that I could easily have been watching the horror unfold with my own eyes.  It captures this lethal, unearthly event with such clarity that I was swept up by the confusion and fear.  For me, this was the point at which the writing really shone!  In fact, every single Phuket-based chapter in the book is so vivid and evocative, and so completely engaging that I could feel the heat of the sand, I could drink-in the sun-drenched sea scapes, I smell the delicious food cooking.  These chapters are written with such intensity and warmth, and clearly a very deep fondness for the local people, their daily lives, and their beautiful culture. These are chapters I wanted more of.

On the day the tsunami strikes we’re following the ever-cheerful Sawat on his daily routine, scratching a meagre living selling cold drinks to beach tourists.  It’s impossible not to like Sawat … and it’s equally impossible not to feel every hardship bestowed on him in this book.  Because for all Sawat’s likability, his life isn’t easy and there are moments in the book when I would happily have asked the author to give Sawat a break 😉.  But far from being disheartening these moments somehow bring to the fore, a narrative of forgiveness, mercy, and generosity of spirit.

And so, the story continues to weave back and forth through the timelines and lives of Sawat, Calum and Hannah, and the freaky murderer.  It’s Calum’s travels to Phuket that start to stitch the seemingly unrelated stories together, interspersed with sharp bursts of enlightenment in the form of the book’s nomenclature (fabulous word!  being dying to use it!!): Kinnara. Because as a series of horrific events unfold, it’s Kinnara who holds the power to right these wrongs … and it’s Calum and Sawat who hold the power to unleash the Kinnara’s magic.

Kinnara is a rich story that refuses to be stifled or pigeon-holed by a single label.  In fact, it was a tricky book to write a review of … it could so easily have grown and grown and grown into something pages long, which would basically be the book blogger world’s worst spoiler.  

I’ve been utterly frank about my love of the chapters based in Phuket – they were so beautifully and tenderly written that I wanted them to go on and on.  I’ve also made no secret that I wasn’t such a fan of Calum and Hannah’s chapters – whilst they contained the quips and the humour, I found the contrast of written-tone just didn’t work for me. However, this is a truly original book, richly layered and the perfect choice for readers who love a satisfying dollop of karma: what goes around comes around. I have it on good faith that it also doubles a surprisingly effective fly swat – who knew!? – making it a perfect beach read.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Kinnara

  1. Excellent review which seems to capture well what the book is about while you gracefully voice your own thoughts on it. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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