The Trout by Peter Cunningham
Like a trout returning across the ocean to breed in the river of its birth, Alex Smyth returns from Canada to Ireland to try to solve a childhood mystery. The eponymous fish is not merely metaphor; the plot hinges on dark events during fishing trips at night. The trout also inspires some of Cunningham’s finest descriptions: “the man with only the rod in his hand, his prey a thing of silver beauty in the water, the line of communication between man and fish as delicate as gossamer”.
This is a well-crafted crisply written, gripping story, its readability enhanced by the brevity of its sentences and chapters. The initial section, set in Canada’s Ontario province, is outstanding; Alex and his wife Kay’s peaceful existence is threatened by a frightening incursion from the past. Later, in tying up loose ends, some of the carefully built tension is lost but Cunningham excels at interweaving the murky events of 40 years ago with Alex’s present-day search for reconciliation.