4 out of 4 stars
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Sean Logan's mother was murdered before he was born. His father was imprisoned for avenging her murder. Now Sean is growing up in small town Fife, Scotland in the shadow of his gruesome origins. He's smart, funny and hell-bent on revenge. He has been plotting vengeance his whole life, but nobody knows it because Sean was born mute. Leo Hofford's novel Only Blood is set on the Scottish coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is narrated in the first person omniscient perspective by Sean.
He is the son of Scottish farmer/soldier Horatio and Romanian immigrant Tatiana. Sean possesses a keen intellect and he is not afraid to laugh at himself. He says of his youth, "My mind seemed always full of brilliant questions and was never short of dazzling answers." (Location 637 in the Kindle edition) He grows up with no friends, but his intelligence and voracious appetite for knowledge are the only companions he requires.
The story unfolds slowly via flashbacks and remembrances, but it is immediately gripping. You will want to read this one in one sitting if you can. Only Blood is full of the rich, witty writing the Irish and Scots are known for. The novel's dark humor had me laughing out loud on several occasions. It takes you by surprise, being so near tragic or violent events, but it never feels out of place. An example is Mr. Hofford's treatment of three of the antagonists in the story. Tom, Joey and Rory are Sean's volatile enemies, but their combined lack of intelligence often results in darkly comical situations, especially when it comes to their own survival.
Gun aficionados will appreciate this novel. Mr. Hofford's research is apparent in the detailed descriptions of firearms included in the tale. Readers who prefer a quick, linear read may not enjoy Only Blood. The author weaves this yarn with masterful movement from the present to the past and back, until the reader has the whole story. Just at the moment of a given character's demise, Mr. Hofford whisks the reader to a time previous that will illustrate how the current situation was born.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is a polished novel with apparently professional editing, wonderful, descriptive writing and an engrossing storyline told with clever humor. In addition, the exquisite character development has the reader invested in the outcome. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Hofford.
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