The Barra Boy

Iain Kelly, author of The Barra Boy.

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The author of a tartan noir crime novel about a dark secret on Barra is giving talks on the island and in Oban this month.

Iain Kelly’s latest novel The Barra Boy, set between present-day London and on Barra in the summer of 1982, is laced with mystery, saga and skilfully interwoven relationships.

In 1982, 13-year-old Ewan Fraser is sent to Barra to stay with his aunt and uncle. Resigned to a monotonous summer of boredom, he is befriended by Laura Robertson and together they explore the golden beaches and rocky coves of the idyllic island.

But a dark secret that connects Laura to the mysterious outcast Mhairi Matheson and her son Billy, is hidden beneath the tranquil surface… a secret that threatens to tear th community apart.

Forty years later, Ewan returns to confront the truth about the formative summer of his adolescence and finally learns the truth about Laura and the boy from Barra.

Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride, where he spends most of his time raising his twins. He graduated from the University of Glasgow with a master’s degree in English Literature and Film and Television Studies and works as an editor in the television industry. Any spare time is spent writing, reading and watching stories. His first novel, A Justified State, 2018, was followed by State Of Denial, 2019, and State Of War, 2020.

Iain said: ‘After visiting relatives who live on Barra for a family holiday, I was impressed by the majestic landscape and stunning beaches and the wild, windswept, remote island. It struck me as the perfect place to set a novel, especially one that focused on the small, close-knit community.

‘It seemed like perfect fertile ground for a family saga that also encapsulated the central role of religion in the Western Isles, the unravelling of families tied together in their remote community and the unique landscape and situation of an island on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Scottish mainland on the other.

‘The central character, like me, is an outsider from the mainland who spends a summer on Barra, on the cusp of adulthood, and learns some unwelcome truths about the world of grown ups, just as his own adolescent feelings are stirring. I wanted to write a crime-mystery story that ties into the rich vein of Tartan Noir literature, but I wanted to do it without resorting to introducing another Scottish detective.

‘From there, I developed the idea of a boy arriving in Barra and finding himself lost in the middle of a mystery he never fully understands.’

Iain Kelly’s mini book tour visits Oban Waterstones on Thursday August 18 and at Bùth Bharraigh in Castlebay on Saturday August 20.

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