Gabriel Kealey

Publisher: Xlibris Pages: 366 Price: (paperback) 13.99 UK ISBN: 9781479748846 Reviewed: February, 2013 Author Website: Visit »

This often compelling, unrelenting novel reads as though it were ripped from author Gabriel Kealey’s guts.

As the story opens, Gregory McKeever refuses to include his unstable identical twin in his plans to open a school for troubled boys, so vengeful Pius pens a letter accusing Gregory of homosexuality and pedophilia. Gregory is cleared of these charges and sets about putting Eaglestone Hall in North Mantleshire on a firm footing. But the pressures of a tight budget and a small staff prompt tensions between Gregory and his wife, Frances, who resumes an affair. Gregory has a nervous breakdown, and the head teacher he hires to share his workload proves to be a malevolent schemer.

It gets worse. The Mantleshire Social Services Department launches an investigation, alleging insufficient staff and improper handling of the children, and the Department for Education and Employment orders Eaglestone Hall closed. Although a judge orders the case reconsidered, Gregory is arrested – at the instigation of Social Services, he is sure – on suspicion of indecent assault on a minor. These “politically correct reactionary forces” are out to get him, Gregory tells us, though his lurid accounts of a miserable childhood, twisted relationship with his brother and stormy marriage will make many readers wonder about his stability.

Yes, Stain is overwrought and overlong. First-time novelist Kealey has the tiresome habit of reproducing pages of bureaucratic documents and delivering sex scenes written in embarrassingly purple prose. He also errs in introducing a great villain (Pius), dropping him for 275 pages and then subsequently allowing him to completely take over the action, to the point where the novel closes without readers learning whether or not Gregory gets his school back. Nonetheless, strong emotional content from an admittedly partisan narrator makes this a gripping saga for anyone not too fussy about careful writing or plot structure.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

Author's Current Residence
United Kingdom
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