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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 8 August 2014
Simon walked out of his family home twenty-five years ago, leaving his wife and three small children. His keys, his car, his wallet were all left behind. He just vanished. No sign of their husband and daddy and no body to mourn. It was a total mystery. Then he walked back in. Meanwhile, his wife had rebuilt her life and made herself a good career. The children he abandoned did well in later life. Why did he leave? Generally speaking I find it hard to enjoy a story when I dislike or fail to empathise with the main character. I couldn’t agree with or approve of Simon’s actions but eventually, through the story he tells his ex-wife, who was forced to have him declare dead, we find out the influences on his life which turned him into the man he eventually became.

This is a story which slips back and forth in time and is told from two different points of view. That can be confusing but I didn’t find it so here. Teasingly, the fragments of their history are unfolded and only at the end, as they each give their own point of view, do we see what happened, and how damaged Simon was by his own background. Sometimes, you can’t find an excuse but you can find a reason. Amazingly good tale and I’ll happily read more from this author.
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The Wronged Sons by John Marrs is not only an intriguing and fascinating story, it also captures the hurt and pain dealt out by bad parents. Although the lead character Simon is a fully-grown adult, in charge of his own destiny, and capable of making his own decisions, the damage inflicted upon him in early life shape his future.

The novel is cleverly structured. In the prologue, the reader sees a man pull up outside a cottage, and the mystery begins.

The story goes back twenty-five years. Simon gets up one morning and just disappears. A father of three young children, married to his childhood sweetheart Catherine, a businessman. There was no indication that Simon was unhappy, and despite desperately searching for clues, Catherine cannot understand why or where her husband has gone to.

Running alongside Catherine's story, is Simon's own story. The reader is aware throughout the novel just where he is, and what he has done, yet there is something huge missing. Although both Catherine and Simon allude to things that have happened in the past, these are never disclosed to the reader, allowing us to try to make our own decisions about what happened, and why.

Throughout the novel, the reader is brought back to the present day with snippets of the conversation between Simon and Catherine as they meet again twenty-five years later. This is a clever way of tying up loose ends, for both of the characters, and the reader.

I don't think that the reader is supposed to like Simon, I certainly loathed the man, and whilst I really didn't care if he dropped down dead on any page, his story intrigued me. Even as the reader learns more and more about his early life, it's incredibly difficult to find any sympathy for him, yet he is a complex character, and I wanted to know more.

Catherine too is a bit of a mixed bag. She's strong, she has to be. She manages to get her life back together and make a success of it. Despite this, there are some decisions that she made that I questioned, but then there wouldn't really be a story if she'd done things differently.

There is no doubt that John Marrs can weave a quite captivating story, at times thrilling, the plot is clever and the structure of the novel adds so much to the reader's enjoyment. There are a couple of pretty improbable coincidences along the way but this is a work of fiction, and they are very forgiveable.

The Wronged Sons is an impressive debut from an author who clearly has imagination and writes very well. It's a self-published book and there are a few typos along the way, but nothing that spoilt my enjoyment of this thrilling story.
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on 20 May 2014
"Wronged Sons" opens in the present day, with a man about to knock on a door. Then we go back 25 years to Catherine Nicholson, wife of Simon, and mother of three young children. She's busying herself with everyday things - feeding the dog, doing chores, until she slowly realises over the course of the day that her husband Simon is unaccounted for. His wallet and running shoes are left behind, and nobody has seen him at work. Catherine panics, and eventually realises that he's gone.

Catherine has to deal with the disappearance of her husband over the next 25 years, slowly rebuilding her life one step at a time while dealing with her grief and confusion. Eventually, she is happy and content - until there's a knock at the door.

Where has Simon been for the past 25 years? Why is he back? More importantly, why did he leave?

The book jumps backwards and forwards, both of them telling each other what happened since the day Simon left - until the truth is slowly revealed. I really loved Catherine, I thought she was a brilliant character and I really rooted for her. I detested Simon. I thought his actions and attitude were beyond comprehension and he was a horrible excuse for a human being. The writer did a fantastic job of making me despise him, which I suspect was the point.

The only problem I had with this was that the characters were sometimes indistinguishable and I had to go back and forth a few times to see who was talking - both Catherine's past and Simon's past are written in the first person, and there's no name on the chapter heading. I found it disrupted the flow of the story and annoyed me a few times. As the story progressed it was easier to know who was who because of location. It didn't ruin the story for me, but at times I was engrossed in it and it was a nuisance to have to read back to see who was talking.

This was a good thriller, and tied up all loose ends. I wasn't mad about the ending because I thought Catherine deserved better, but I will read more from this author in the future. Really impressive. Take a chance and read it!
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Twenty-five years ago Simon walks away from his family in Northamptonshire leaving his wife Catherine no clues as to what happened to him.

Split between the past and the present in the form of the confrontation between Simon and Catherine Nicholson, this is one gripping tale. We know from the blurb that Simon has been travelling the world while Catherine was left wondering what had happened to her seemingly loving husband. I was hooked right from the start with poor Catherine searching desperately with hope fading for her husband, the police and friends initially supportive until with no sign or trail to lead them to him, they reluctantly they come to the conclusion that he is probably dead.

John Marrs has plotted this book perfectly with conversation in the present, intertwined with the events in the past switching neatly at just the right time to raise the tension. Told chronologically with Simon starting at the beginning of his journey as Catherine counteracts this with the realities of her life with young children without him. It soon becomes apparent that Simon is a man who has an excuse for every action he has taken throughout their years apart, not considering for one moment that he could have made different choices.

Both Catherine and Simon shock each other with the events that have shaped their years apart and unresolved issues cause anger to bubble as Simon seeks to explain why he left and what happened while he was gone. As we inch towards the present there are many jaw-dropping moments. If you pick up this book, expect to be shocked!

This is a book that firmly deserves to be defined as a page-turner.
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on 25 January 2015
I found this book hard to put down, even though I found the jumping around of 'time' a bit difficult at first, I didn't notice it the more I went into the book. The characters were believable and the emotions were quite raw in parts. The book was sad and touching in parts and equally there were horrific and dark moments. It was a roller coaster of ups and downs in the characters lives. I enjoyed the style of writing and I hope this author writes more as I would definitely read another of his books. A proper gripping read, a page turner at its best - I finished it in a few days, where books usually take me a couple of weeks, I somehow found time to sit down and read, read, read. Brilliant.
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on 8 June 2014
What can I say? As the story unfolded I could see this as a drama serial or a film.It was written so matter of factly such a powerful story of a fractured life.I don't want to give away the plot but this book is well worth the read.You might want to close your eyes at some parts but don't.It is brilliant.
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on 2 June 2014
The Wronged Sons is a psychological thriller, opening with the day husband Simon got up and left his entire life behind. It follows not just the impact this has on his family, but on Simon himself- travelling around the world, hardly even thinking about the family he left behind.

The novel jumps between time periods frequently. One minute we’re in the present day, next we’ve gone back 25 years ago. It also switches narrators- from the mourning wife who was left behind to Simon who caused all of her grief.
Some might think that all this jumping around might be a little difficult to follow or confuse the reader but Marrs handles the transitions with skill and the reader follows along so easily that one would hardly even notice.

Marrs is constantly playing with your emotions; one minute you empathise with the wife and children who were left behind, the next with the husband who walked out. Midway, and you come to hate Simon for his inability to see how wrong he is, or how selfish he’s been.

There’s no clear moral to this story, no black and white/good or evil characters- and perhaps that’s best. But it’s gripping plot and starling revelations will ensure that you won’t be able to put this book down.

4/5 stars. A gripping read. Highly recommended.
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on 9 May 2014
I've just finished this, having read it in less than a day. I write too, and the first thing I noticed was the easy, engaging writing style. It hooked me in to a story that was, in my opinion, well-plotted and well-crafted. Yes, it needs editing, and I can't help thinking that if that were done it may well catch the attention of a publisher. There are some errors regarding the timeline (the reference to Jimmy Saville is too early for this novel, for instance), and there are some typos. But I really liked the jumping around from one period to the next (I like books that move from the past to the present, anyway) and perhaps with different section headings in places, there would be no confusion as to who is 'speaking'.

*Slight spoiler alert * My biggest, and only proper criticisms are first that I feel more could have been done to explain Simon's motivation, particularly with regard to his relationship with Dougie. I think if there were more detail surrounding the boys' friendship (Simon, Steven, Roger and Dougie) and how Catherine 'invaded' this, we might have had to do less 'understanding' of what happened at the end. Motivation is always key, and can be shown rather than hinted at. Basically, I think Dougie should have figured a lot more in the earlier story. Second, I feel that some characterisation of lesser characters could have been fuller, although I think Arthur, Kenneth, Doreen and Shirley were drawn very well indeed (Shirley made me laugh out loud towards the end.)

But back to the good bits, which far outweigh any criticisms: John Marrs can 'write' both genders, something not very many writers can do well. I was as convinced by the voice of Catherine as I was by the voice of Simon. He also writes interestingly and it is most definitely a page-turner. Some reviewers have said the plot is far-fetched. Perhaps, but I bet there are people out there who could tell true-life stories about themselves that are even more outlandish than Simon's adventures!

I have given this book five stars because a) I am in awe of such an accomplished first novel; b) I love the style; c) John Marrs writes women in the first person very well and d) The next one will be even better.
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on 21 February 2014
This book is an illustration of the frightening consequences of misunderstanding a situation, and not following it up.

Simon, a thoroughly dislikeable character, walks out on his wife and three children for no apparent reason, and turns up again some twenty years later. His reason is to make his peace with the mother of his children. We are then talked through the intervening years from his perspective and hers. The story is not told in the form of dialogue, but the recounting of a tale. This is highly unbelievable between two people, but does make it easier for the reader who is thus not forced to put up with interruptions, hysterical reactions or other forms of exclamation.

The chapters are divided into his story and hers, so it jumps about a lot, and you have to keep an eye on the headings to know who is talking and when, because there is present day discussion too.

The dénouement is excellent and totally unexpected. The ghastly Simon gets a nasty shock; his wife suffers much worse. This is a gripping tale which is well-worth reading, but be prepared to be horrified.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 June 2015
This was recommended to me by THE Book club and I am so glad I succumbed to my one-click addiction and bought it.
It is another of those books written in the present with flashbacks to the past to explain/enhance the story. Simon walked out on his wife and kids over 20 years ago leaving his wife to have to try and pick up the pieces and rebuild her own life, bringing up the children as a single parent, despite never really finding out why he did it. Eventually he has him declared dead.
And then he comes back.
Through more flashbacks and present day conversation between Catherine and Simon we learn the reasons why he did what he did.
This is a great debut by Mr Marrs. Characterisation is good (although I am not sure I really liked many of the characters), language and writing style easy to follow and there is a good balance between descriptive passages and "getting on with the story". The ending is a little predictable in parts but leaves the reader satisfied.
I notice Mr Marrs has a new offering out and I will definitely be reading that.
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