Joe Oakes is a journalist whose specialty is to debunk hoaxes. When he is invited by a cult, the Psychogenic Healing Ministries, on Pig island, off the Scottish coast, Oakes accepts immediately. Not only will he be able to expose the truth behind rumors of Satanism and a strange video terrifying the locals, but he will also learn more about what happened to his nemesis who disappeared 20 years ago: Malachi Dove, the leader of the cult. When Oakes was young, he wrote an article to denounce the practices of the fake healer, and has been haunted since the threat Dove made then, which rang like a curse. Once on Pig Island, Oakes will be faced to an evil he couldn’t suspect. But this is only the beginning…

Pig Island is a very dark and disturbing story, with echoes of both Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau, and that kept me hooked until the very last page. Its construction is very unusual and maybe unsettling at first, in the sense that it unfolds in three parts, corresponding to three different locations, and alternates between Oakes’s point of view and his nitwit wife’s. Unsettling, because after a very mysterious and suspenseful first part on the island, the narration takes a deceptively anticlimactic turn. But don’t be fooled, the loss of direction is only apparent, and throughout the novel, Hayder is working to her goal, leading to an efficient and terrifying finale where all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, showing what a clever and tightly-plotted novel Pig Island is.

Not everything is spelt out for the reader in this novel, who has to provide a little effort to piece all together. Of course, the decision to tell from two perspectives only leaves some details in the dark. Thus there are some things that are left for us to infer and imagine, even though what really happened on the island and afterwards becomes unequivocal in the last sentences. Reading reviews on amazon.com, I was amazed by the low ratings and the reproaches that the ending, or even the whole last two thirds of the novel are a let down: I couldn’t disagree more. Pig Island is one of the most unusual but also satisfying and clever thriller that I have read in a while. Not only did the ending come as a surprise, but I didn’t feel cheated: I admired how Hayder invented complex and interesting characters, serving this fascinating story of a terrible machination. This was my first time reading Mo Hayder, and I am looking forward to discovering her other novels…

Rating: 5/5