Scottish literature has a long and distinguished history of combining the psychological with the supernatural. From 19th century classics by James Hogg and Robert Louis Stevenson, through to modern iterations such as Graeme Macrae Burnet’s 2016 Booker shortlisted His Bloody Project, there’s a wealth of this genre to choose from. So you might be forgiven for thinking there’s little more to say.
However, just when you think you’ve got it covered, a book like Tom Gillespie’s The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce appears: a work that prompts us to question everything we regard as certain. It’s a novel that examines grief and guilt through the twin facets of art and obsession.
Protagonist Dr Jacob Boyce, an Earth Sciences lecturer, spends his days in front of a baroque painting in a Glasgow gallery, taking meticulous notes and measurements and trying to unravel what he perceives as its geometric riddles.
His obsession soon develops into paranoia and a raft of conspiracy theories, and he’s never entirely sure who to trust and what to believe. With a missing wife, a coterie of mysterious strangers, mathematical conundrums, and philosophical musings, The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce is the smartest thriller you’ll read this year.
It’s one of those rare novels that feed the mind and soul in equal measure.
Tom Gillespie’s The Strange Book of Jacob Boyce is published by Vine Leaves Press