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This is the second Geoffrey Archer novel I have read, the previous one being Shadow Hunter. Having now learnt the difference between Geoffrey Archer and Lord Jeffrey Archer the former Politian and writer. I saw this in my local bookshop and liked the sound off it so I decided to give it a go.
About the Author:
Geoffrey Archer had a successful career in the media as a National journalist before taking the plunge and becoming a writer. He was born in 1944 and since this switch he has written nine highly acclaimed novels. This is his newest thriller and was written in 2004.
Synopsis of the book:
The book begins in 1948, when Tom Sedley's 14 year old sister is brutally murdered in a quiet and supposedly friendly part of North London. Within a short space of time a tramp is arrested and charged with the crime. However Tom has his doubts about this as where she was found was a secret part of the woods that only Tom and his best friend Marcus Warwick knew.
Two years later and both men are separately called up for Nation Service. Tom is still haunted by his sister's death and confused by the way his best friend shunned him following this. Was it because of their mutual friend Binny a girl both men were attracted too? Or was there something else?
To Tom's delight they meet up while in Korea and despite Tom's persistence Marcus is unwilling to discuss the past and seems very uncomfortable in his company. But when Tom is about to be killed by a Chinese soldier it is Marcus who kills the man to save his life. Tom while very grateful saw his friend hesitate before saving him and wonders why.
Now Tom must try and find the truth to put all the ghosts to rest so he can finally move on and his sister be at peace.
My thoughts on the book:
I really enjoyed reading this book as I did the previous Archer novel. There is a genuine quality in the author's writing that for me not only brought the book to life but also made for me an enthralling and exciting adventure.
To start with the storyline was interesting and because of the subject matter it grabbed my attention from the beginning. I found I too could relate to Tom's almost compulsive desire to know the truth about what really happened to his sister and why.
I liked the way the story followed the books key characters at specific or key points in their lives and wrote for each of their viewpoints. This was done in a very skilful way as to do this it was necessary for the author to understand each persons character intimately.
As a result of this the story was rich in detail, which made the pages literally fly past. It was also the quality of the writing that appealed to me and the way my interest was held with the secret not being revealed until the final few pages.
Unlike many mystery or suspense books I have read in this one I felt empathy towards all the main characters at various times in the piece. And while I wanted the truth and the murderer to be caught I didn't want it to be any of the key characters. By the way it was written I could relate to the motive for the crime.
But even with all that said the ending of the book is still a surprise. As even when the truth is revealed Archer still does not allow things to be neatly tidied away he is far more realistic than that. So in a sense you never really knew what would happen next and what twists and turns the author would spin into the plot.
As I mentioned earlier, I thought all the characters were excellent. They were written in enough detail with the author keeping back certain vital information but leaving subtle clues within their personalities to help you to understand once the truth had been discovered.
I particularly found the Korean War chapters well written. He described the scenes before and after the fighting in with great clarity, thus increasing my understanding and knowledge of such a scenario. As a result of this I felt involved in the conflict, almost a fly on the wall in all the activity there.
My main criticism I would have of the book and it is something I have noticed in quite a few books now, is the over importance of chance and luck in proceedings. Let me give you an example, what are the chances of Tom and Marcus literally bumping into one another in Korea? Slim I think as they were in totally different roles and attachments. But also for them to continue to bump into each other with a degree of regularity? I think not!!
While I am being critical I must also raise a concern about the massive gaps there were in the characters lives. As you started in 1948 then you move to 1950, then onto 1982 and finally 2004. There was nothing in between it and it made you think did these characters only consider the murder at these points in their lives and the other characters as well at these times. I understand why the author did it but I'm not convinced it worked 100% for me.
The length of the book was about right for me, with regular and short chapters taking you from one scene to the next with skill. I like the fact that there was both a prologue and an epilogue and both of which were of a good length that began and finished the book in a structured and complete way.
I would recommend this book as an excellent crime/mystery thriller. I really enjoyed the quality of the author descriptive abilities and found I had read an absorbing book in no time at all.
Publisher: Century Pages: 342 ISBN: 1-84413-804-6 Price: £5.99 About the author: www.geoffreyarcher.co.uk