Off the Shelf: The Island book review

Off the Shelf: The Island
By Adrian McKinty
ISBN 9780316531283 375 pp. 2022 Little, Brown Co. Review by Terrence J. Kenneally

An American family’s trip to see koalas and Australian wildlife becomes a life-and-death situation after they kill an innocent woman in a car crash and her family seeks revenge.  That is the synopsis of this propulsive, terrifying, razor-sharp book that falls into the genre of action, adventure, thriller, and drama.

After moving from a small country town to Seattle, Heather Baxter marries Tom, a widowed doctor with a young son, Owen (12) and teenage daughter Olivia (14). After a difficult year that saw the death of Tom’s first wife and his marriage to Heather- whom the kids dislike- a group trip to Australia seemed like a way to bring them all together.

Renting a car to drive to the coast in search of interesting animals seems like a fun excursion, but while stopping at a roadside stand for food, the family begins talking with some local people and they end up on a tiny ferry to a remote private island in search of the wildlife they haven’t seen yet. Once on the island, one thing leads to another, and Tom, driving too fast, hits a woman on a bike, killing her instantly. Over several generations, the family that lives on the island has become a law unto itself, and after realizing that the woman is dead, they seek retaliation- whether it be via death, rape, or cash, to be decided by Ma, the head of the family, and Danny, the husband of the woman who was killed.

When Heather and the kids are separated from Tom, they are forced to escape alone, seconds ahead of the pursuers. It’s up to Heather to save herself and the kids, even though they don’t trust her, and the harsh bushland is filled with danger.

Heather has been underestimated her entire life, but she knows that only she can bring her family home again and become the mother that the children desperately need, even when it means doing the unthinkable to keep them alive. An engaging thriller with a surprising ending, the storytelling pulls readers compulsively onward.

Adrian McKinty grew up in Belfast but lived in Australia for many years. The book was born out of an experience the author had driving in rural Australia on an isolated island when he swerved to miss a woman wearing a hearing aid who pulled out in front of him from a blind road on a bicycle causing him to almost hit her. When he told his agent the story, the agent said, “No, you did hit her; and that’s your next book.” A TOP SHELF read!

*Terrence J Kenneally is a n attorney and owner of Kenneally Law Firm in Rocky River Ohio. He received his Masters Degree from John Carroll University in Irish Studies and has taught Irish literature and Irish history.

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