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“The Sun Always Shines on Aberdeen” has been written by the famous Scottish writer Pétra Macavity who is widely known for her diversity of interests ranging from historical and medical research to theatrical performances and conceptual art exhibitions. At first sight the book seems to be part of the tradition of crime novels set in Scottish cities. Here a non-professional investigator is suddenly in charge of resolving a strange crime mystery where the sun and the rain stand amongst the suspects…An original plot and style where the heroine does make a difference.
The plot is set in the Aberdeen College during the autumn of 2010. Foreign students studying English as a foreign language are disappearing one by one without leaving any trace or any signs of life. The snow begins to fall and drift and the temperatures reach a record low, dashing all the students’ families hopes of finding any clues. So when Sybille, the missing students’ young and very bright English teacher, begins to lose the use of one ear and to choke during a course, she reckons that time is running out and that she must investigate on her own before it’s getting too late for everybody. Because she comes from a foreign country as well (she has German roots) she seems more able to take a fresh and objective look at the situation, which makes her the perfect person to lead an investigation. On her bicycle she starts to scour the Scottish town for clues and revelations. She instinctively feels that there is a link between the sun, the snow and the disappearances…
Is it a thriller, a science-fiction novel, an allegory? These are questions that will challenge your mind when reading this book.
As it happens Sybille takes us along on her bicycle inside a kind of sub-reality where a teacher‘s words suddenly acquire unsuspected and colossal powers. Riding painfully through the snow, slipping, skidding, she drags us towards an ill-known Aberdeen, sometimes atmospheric, sometimes shabby. The author excels here when she describes the gallery of characters Sybille encounters during what seems to be a journey of initiation, disturbing, astonishing folks of all sorts, rugged faces that she, and we, will never forget.
The great strength of the novel is the intertwining of historical allusions, practical facts and poetic quotes, the whole time crowned with what we shall not be afraid to call a magic vision of Scotland...With Sybille you will learn the story of Indian Peter, you will discover the famous poet Byron’s connection with Aberdeen and that Pétaouchnock is the name given to “the back of beyond” in French; finally you will know everything about solar eclipses, “aurora borealis” and notorious homicides committed in Aberdeen over the last 100 years. The heroine is endearing and witty, she has a strong character and since there is something very theatrical about her, the college, the city and the Aberdeen seaside transform into metaphors when they are not part of the act themselves.
While reading this book you will have to open yourself to another vision of the world you are travelling through, as if another voice were whispering tales from another reality in your ear. The result is unsettling but gripping and haunting. “The Sun Always Shines on Aberdeen” – not such an original sounding title for such a fine novel but it refers to Sybille’s favorite sentence when entering the classroom every morning. All sorts of readers will enjoy this novel, from the true crime stories fan to the poetry lover. It’s a beautiful book packed with information, knowledge and sparkling thanks to the unforgettable heroine. Its secret poetry unfolds every time you re-read it. It will linger long after in your memory.