The Inn at the Edge of the World

 The Inn at the Edge of the World by Alice Thomas Ellis

Five people, trying to avoid all the usual holiday commotion, answer an ad for Christmas at a remote island inn in the Hebrides, where they are promised a festive-free retreat. The innkeepers are Eric, who bought the inn and moved to the island looking for peace, and his obnoxious wife, Mabel, who drops out of the story early on and thank goodness for that. They are fairly new to the island, but have gotten to know some of the locals who frequent the bar at the inn. These include 
Finlay, a local boatman who always seems to know more than he's telling; his sister-in-law, a woman with webbed hands who comes to help out at the inn; the sleazy professor, who may or may not be a professor and has a steady string of young women staying at his cottage; and Mrs. H., who leaves her husband at home while she drinks at the bar. I haven't quite figured out what her purpose in the story was.

The guests are Jessica, a famous actress who doesn't know how to stop acting; Jon, a less famous actor who behaves oddly and is obsessed with Jessica; Ronald, a psychotherapist whose insights into the other guests cause some timely concern; Anita, a salesperson in a city department store who dreams of more and better; and Harry, a disillusioned ex-military man still grieving the loss of a wife and young son.

The story moves along at a fairly slow pace but the characters are interesting and very different from one another. There is an element of the supernatural, but it didn't get to the level of dark that would make me give it up. A few out of the ordinary events made me wonder where it was going but the author treated them with a light touch. I liked both the story and the way it was written, with its slow build toward an ending I hadn't expected.  

Who is the young boy Eric sees hanging around the inn? Why are people dancing on and destroying the local professor's lawn? And which of the guests will never make it home from this most peculiar holiday getaway? 

Lots to think about, and a twist in the very last line to leave you thinking as you close the book: "Hmmm".  


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