A Prison in the Sun by Isobel Blackthorn

Travel to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands in A Prison in the Sun by Isobel Blackthorn.

Thank you to Emma of Damppebbles Book Tours and Next Chapter Publishing for sending me a free digital copy in return for an honest review.

Ghostwriter Trevor Moore decides to getaway to a private retreat to write his first book. He rents an old farmhouse in Tefia in Fuerteventura for three months and hopes to find his muse. One day on the beach, he finds a rucksack with 50,000 Euros in cash. Hidden with the cash is a story of José, imprisoned near where Trevor is staying. Translating the story, Trevor is transported to a concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.

You can find A Prison in the Sun on Amazon, available on Kindle Unlimited, paperback and audiobook.

My review

There is a lot to unpick in this book! A Prison in the Sun is part mystery, part historical fiction and part personal awakening.

My favourite parts of the novel were the historical fiction sections. The story Trevor finds is told in a first-person perspective of José, a prisoner at the concentration camp.

Originally a military airbase, the compound was turned into a prison to house political prisoners and criminals some time after General Franco came to power. From 1954, as the result of a law making homosexuality illegal under a vagrancy act, gay men were incarcerated at the hostel, then a prison farm, for up to three years. From what I could glean, conditions were abominable. Young men of eight-seven kilos were reduced to almost half that in five months. The label ‘concentration camp’ seemed hardly an understatement.

Through the story, Trevor learns more about this awful and little known part of history under General Franco. This part was absolutely heartbreaking, but beautifully and sensitively written.

Trevor has recently been through a divorce, after his wife fell in love with a woman. He is currently between homes, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to leave the country for three months to write. This makes for an interesting backdrop to José’s story, as he learns more about himself and struggles with the possibility that he might be bisexual. At one point he reflects that he is very lucky to be able to consider his sexuality, when just 40 years previously, this would have been illegal.

The final part to A Prison in the Sun is the mystery. Who owned the rucksack and where did the money come from? This difficulty is compounded as a dead body washes up on the beach. Most of the mystery is in Trevor’s own thoughts. He makes wild and mostly unfounded assumptions about people he meets. His last call with Angela, his friend and a literary agent, confused me — the news she gives him seems significant but it’s not explained. This lack of conclusion or explanation was a little frustrating. I also disagreed with a lot of Trevor’s decisions and I felt that they were out of character for someone so anxious.

Overall, this is a very interesting book. I was glad to learn about a piece of history that was totally unknown to me. It made me very grateful that we are now able to be true to ourselves without risk of arrest (though of course that’s not the case everywhere in the world — but I hope it will be soon). This is the first of Isobel’s books that I have read, and it has made me want to read her other two Canary Islands mysteries: A Master of Latitude and Clarissa’s Warning.

The blurb for A Prison in the Sun

After millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore rents an old farmhouse in Fuerteventura, he moves in to find his muse.

Instead, he discovers a rucksack filled with cash. Who does it belong to – and should he hand it in… or keep it?

Struggling to make up his mind, Trevor unravels the harrowing true story of a little-known concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.

You can find A Prison in the Sun on Amazon, available on Kindle Unlimited, paperback and audiobook.

The author, Isobel BlackthornAbout the author, Isobel Blackthorn

Award-winning author, Isobel Blackthorn, is a prolific novelist of unique and engaging fiction. She writes across a range of genres, including gripping mysteries and dark psychological thrillers. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019.

Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism from the University of Western Sydney for her ground-breaking study of the texts of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey. Her engagement with Alice Bailey’s life and works has culminated in the biographical novel The Unlikely Occultist and the full biography Alice A. Bailey: Life and Legacy.

Isobel carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands, Spain, her former home. Four of her novels are set on the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. These standalone novels are setting rich and fall into the broad genre of travel fiction.

Isobel has led a rich and interesting life and her stories are as diverse as her experiences, the highs and lows, and the dramas. A life-long campaigner for social justice, Isobel has written, protested and lent her weight to a range of issues including asylum seekers and family violence. A Londoner originally, Isobel currently lives in Queensland, Australia.

Visit Isobel’s website to learn more, or you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.