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The Low Road Paperback – 17 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (17 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780870574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780870571
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Hard-bitten noir' The Independent.

'His writing [is] alive and intelligent' The Bookbag.

'A prizewinning and stylish noir thriller, defined by its lyrical quality and its power to manipulate our empathy ... this is a sublime and perfectly constructed literary crime thriller' Raven Crime Reads.

'If you are tiring of familiar fare, then this is something innovative and unusual ... a book that deserves the widest possible circulation' Good Book Guide.


"The Low Road is richly and powerfully written. It is also an almost unbearably intense, tragic, and unrelentingly dark story of addiction, regret, despair, and failed dreams that left this reader mightily impressed." (Australian Bookseller+Publisher)

"Womersley is a gifted writer with a curious and liberated command of the language … The Low Road is an engrossing, confronting and excellent novel from a talented young Australian writer." (ABC First Tuesday Bookclub)

"As unflinching as Cormac McCarthy and as perverse as Ian McEwan, The Low Road blazes too with the lyricism of T.C. Boyle. It is a surprising and stunning debut." (The Australian Financial Review)

"It is difficult to believe that The Low Road is a first novel. It has the controlled pace of an experienced hand … rife with images, it unfolds like a film … Womersley’s language is polished and assured, each word precisely chosen, and every image finely constructed." (The Age)

"Womersley’s taut, almost monosyllabic prose creates a relentless momentum as it plunges into a black dreamscape with echoes of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Samuel Beckett, Horace McCoy, Georges Simenon and Philip K. Dick … He does not set out to solve puzzles, provide answers or fasten the ends of riddles together, though his plotting is captivating. His is an almost poetic concern for the death of people, the way there is no redemption at their end, only the sensation of a world torn from its hinge, barrelling through space … Maybe it is Cormac McCarthy of whom the reader is so naggingly reminded. It’s a big call, but Womersley’s mastery of rhythm and image is, like the crusty American’s, able to sustain complexity at the level of a sentence and a paragraph while holding the structures of his novel together … This is writing you often stop to read aloud." (The Australian) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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By A. Ross TOP 500 REVIEWER on 13 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
I picked up this Australian crime novel largely based on the cover tagline: "Winner of the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction." I read a ton of crime fiction, and especially enjoy writers from other counties. However, fifty pages in, I was really questioning whether or not I really needed to read this book. I gave it another 75 pages, and just set it aside for good.

The story revolves around three men on the downslope of life. Lee is a young ex-con on the run, lying in a seedy motel room with a suitcase with $8,000 and a gunshot wound in the gut. Wild is a morphine-addicted doctor on the run, a recent arrival at the same seedy motel after fleeing his family and the police. Their two fates become intertwined, along with that of the third man, middle-aged Josef, who vouched for Lee with his boss, and now has to track him and the $8,000 down and deliver some punishment.

All of this is perfectly fine as a setup, but the execution lies pretty dead on the page. I'm totally fine with dark, grimy, nasty stories, but they need to be engaging. Even though the characters are on the run and there's a pursuit, the pacing is dead, there's zero momentum. I'm totally fine with protagonists who are unlikable, but you still need to care what happens to them. There's nothing in the first half of the book that made me interested enough in them to care. It reads almost like the author is trying for a kind of George V. Higgins, small-time crooks, vibe - but it doesn't work. There are a handful of scenes here and there that are nicely written, some visceral description, but nothing to hook the reader. In a nutshell, it's just kind of boring.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Low Road is a bleak, dark, literary noir tale. It is somewhat of a curious story as it feels both timeless and placeless: it could be set anywhere from the mid-1930s through to the 1990s and in any reasonable sized city with a large rural hinterland. The story is all about the three main characters, especially Lee, a young petty criminal, and Wild, a doctor addicted to morphine, and their journey to try and escape their past and their developing, uneasy friendship. It is not a cheery plot, but it well crafted and paced, told through stark and engaging prose. Overall, this is not a story that will inspire hope and joy, but is an evocative and engaging tale that has the feel of a stage play with its small cast and handful of settings.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Raven TOP 500 REVIEWER on 25 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Chris Womersley's previous UK release `Bereft' was easily one of my favourite literary fiction reads of the last year, with its beautiful prose and thought provoking examination of human relationships, so I am delighted that Quercus have released this, originally published in Australia in 2007, to bolster his recognition here in the UK. A prizewinning and stylish noir thriller, `The Low Road', transcends the crime thriller genre and is a sublime example of literary crime fiction, defined by its lyrical quality and its power to manipulate our empathy towards the three essentially criminal protagonists.

Opening within the confines of a rundown motel in an unnamed location, Lee is seeking sanctuary after making off with a suitcase stuffed with cash, having received a bullet wound in the course of his actions. Wild, a disgraced medical practitioner with a reliance on drugs is also holed up there, having deserted his marital home, after his malpractice has come to light. Through the machinations of brassy motel owner, Sylvia, the men enter each others lives, and having found out that Lee is being pursued by the sinister Josef, to recover the contents of the suitcase, the two go on the run together, as Lee tries to reach what he perceives to be the relative safety of his sister's home. As Lee's physical condition deteriorates, Wild endeavours to seek out an old medical colleague of his to attend to Lee but fate has more in store for them than they could possibly imagine...

As their journey propels them further into danger, herein lies the mastery of Womersley's writing, and his innate ability to twist our preconceptions of the character's criminal activities.
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