Pig Island is Mo Hayder’s fourth novel. For those who have read all four, there’s something that’s said with certainty now: Hayder goes to places that other authors don’t go.
A running theme with Tokyo her previous novel, Hayder is not afraid to introduce quirky, oddball, or severely damaged characters that live on the periphery of society for whatever reason.
In Pig Island we have a whole community living on the periphery. All members arrived on Pig Island because they followed their leader and a secretive religious island community was established. But when journo Joe Oakes arrives there to prepare for an article, he finds that the community is estranged from its leader, Pastor Malachi Dove.
Oaksey is a born sceptic and he’s also specialised in exposing supernatural hoaxes. He and Dove also have a bit of a history. You could say that Dove was the catalyst for Oaksey’s scepticism and specialism…
What follows is a gripping and page turning read where question after question is raised and “the unspeakable things people can do to each other” unfold.
To say any more would destroy the surprises in the plot, of which there are many.
There are things we know about in life but have been lucky enough not to experience. There are things so rare that only the minority of us is aware of their occurrence; the rest of us plough through life in happy ignorance. Hayder taps into both and brings us the normally “unspeakable”, such is her niche and skill.
The characters are very well drawn as they are so rounded. Initially I found it hard to determine if I had any sympathy or liking for Oaksey or his wife, Lexie; humans are never and neither should they be perfect. By the end of the book, Hayder made sure where I’d find my loyalties.
If the thought of the “supernatural” or “secretive religious community” puts you off this novel, don’t let it. This is essentially a book about human relationships and how they can cause extreme harm. One thing I can promise you, should you choose to read this novel – you won’t expect what’s coming.
Finally, one small gripe from me. I finished the novel wanting to read it again, wondering if I’d missed something, as I wasn’t sure of the “motivation”… Luckily one reading friend had “inferred” and another thought she had it “on the nail”. Both imparted their thoughts, for which I’m grateful as I don’t have the time to re-read it right now. It’s one of very few books that I’d like to re-read though, and not just because I think I missed something along the way.
With Pig Island, Hayder goes from strength from strength. I won’t even try and imagine what she’ll come up with next. I think the corners of Hayder’s mind are hinged onto the periphery of society. I know not what is out there. Hayder makes it her goal to take us there, inform us and entertain us as she does that.
“If you enjoy author X, then you’ll like Mo Hayder” – I don’t think you’ll find this banner on a Hayder novel. She’s unique. That’s what made me buy Pig Island after appreciating Birdman and The Treatment, but not liking Tokyo too much. Hayder’s writing career is a mystery trip in itself.
If you love not knowing what’s around the corner, this book is for you. If you’ve loved Hayder’s books to date, or the majority of them, this book is for you.