Heir to the fortune and name of the Alderdice family, Jake struggles with a passion for art that is despised by his mother. Along with sister Vivian, the young man is taken to the fashionable resort of Waxwood, where beady-eyed matriarch Larissa hopes to instil in him some of the values held by her father.
When the enigmatic and patriarchal Stevens arrives on the scene, Larissa anticipates her son will be swayed by the older man’s influence. As the two get to know each other, Jake’s art prompts Stevens to introduce him to the Order of Actaeon, a reclusive group of men who have discarded commercialism and the usual niceties of home life for a more natural and wild existence. However, there is a disturbing aspect to the group that could force Jake to rethink his own philosophy.
My first look at Tam May’s work consisted of her short story collection, ‘Gnarled Bones and Other Stories’, which impressed me greatly. ‘The Order of Actaeon’, book 1 in the Waxwood series, further demonstrates her talent for language. The writing is sharp and insightful with a turn of phrase that is a pleasure to behold. The characters are wonderfully realistic, and (in the case of Larissa at least), not always likeable. Nevertheless, the story draws the reader into an irresistible and intricate web, one that binds the Alderdice family together while at the same time, threatens to tear them apart.
One of these days, Tam May is going to push Johnny Steinbeck off his pedestal with her dazzling prose and gift for creating provocative and fascinating stories. Go girl!