This is a book that should not be judged by its cover. For one, having the subtitle A Memoir of Dark Travel on a largely black background creates a somewhat sinister or otherworldly expectation. Furthermore the author, Thomas H Cook, is a successful writer of crime fiction and he is unconnected to a popular travel company, although his book is a travelogue of sorts.
Tragic Shores describes Cook’s visits to more than two dozen places around the world where what he calls “dark events” have taken place. In doing so he offers brief history lessons on many of these events, which include the traffic of slaves out of Elmina castle in Ghana, the Cherokee nation's dispossession of their land in Georgia, the World War 1 battle at Verdun, the capture of Okinawa by US troops in World War II, and other far-ranging and disparate destinations.
With his astute observations, Cook creates a vivid sense of what each place is like now, and takes the reader back with descriptions of how it would likely have been at that particularly sad time in its history.
The chapter on the two most "popular" places on earth to commit suicide is an example of Cook’s skill as a writer, since he leaves the reader feeling uplifted, rather than depressed, at the end of it.
He and his wife make a habit of landing on foreign shores without having arranged accommodation or somebody to show them around, and not following any set itinerary, because “only ****ies book ahead”. This allows them the luxury of straying from the beaten path, and having time to linger and immerse themselves in their destinations.
They are not tour bus travellers, preferring to drive themselves or use public transport.
In so doing they interact with locals and various strangers, and anyone who has ever taken the road less travelled will identify with and take delight in these encounters. - Linda Curling