In the Beast’s Cage by Mac Altgelt
A novel of historical fiction, supernatural forces and near contemporary America, this is a deep and penetrating look at people’s priorities. Looking at a small number of characters, it skillfully reveals their past and present to provide a basis for their actions. Lord Ainsley Blake is a man with a complex and long past who has several dark secrets. He is painfully aware that he presents a real risk to anyone who gets close to him, or he gets close to, and it is one reason that he presents such a mysterious face to the new small town coastal community in America. His arrival does not go unnoticed by those who have special knowledge, and also by a certain young woman who is a real fixture in the community. It is an ambitious tale that covers animal poaching, life in a small town and the love of father figures for their daughter. It has something to say about life and death, and the desperate need to protect a loved one.
I particularly enjoyed the way that three characters are drawn together by a love of books. It is significant that Ainsley is the proud owner of a unique collection of volumes from over a long period of time, and his newly discovered special friend Ginny Harrison is a huge fan of the literature that has helped her to escape in her imagination from the coastal town in which she has lived for nearly all of her life. This is a book which carefully blends elements of fantasy with romance, a historical tale and the brutality of poaching game. I found it a fascinating read with several surprising twists neatly encompassed in a well plotted novel. I was pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review this book.
The book begins with a Prologue which tells of an incident in the life of Bruce Kelly, a professional poacher who lacks a concern for the birds and animals he captures, beyond the fact they are not damaged which reduces their value. He is also lacking in any concern for the indigenous trappers who appear to bear the greatest risk. The focus then moves to Virginia or Ginny Harrison, a young woman of habit who is very close to her widowed father. The latter has lived quietly for many years, but now announces that he is going to buy a dilapidated local zoo, and has been working on all the research necessary. Meanwhile a ship with one occupant has arrived in the local marina, the Eugenia, and Ainsley Blake has entered the story. Before long he meets a kindred spirit in dubious circumstances. It is soon obvious that there is a complex story behind Ainsley’s past, and that Hugo is not the only one who recognises him for what he is behind the gentlemanly exterior. Within a short time he saves a local figure, and wins the interest and admiration of not only a local doctor.
This unusual book is a powerful story which works on several levels. Ainsley is a flawed hero with an unusual past who has strong principles. It is a novel with real depth which draws the reader in, and I was intrigued as to where it was leading. I recommend it to anyone with a taste for an element of fantasy firmly rooted in small community life, and a diverse plot worked out in a neat way.