Top critical review
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Too complex, I'm afraid
on 2 October 2011
This book lists its style as 'literary fiction', so it's not supposed to be an easy read. At first it seems as if it's going to be a rewarding one though, as the structure becomes apparent; the main character, DI Simon Grant, is being held hostage by the main suspect in a murder case, and we jump repeatedly from the present to flashbacks illustrating the many and varied aspects of how he ended up there. So far so good, and the core characters - Grant, renegade son of two leading left-wing intellectuals, his wife Pippa, elder daughter of a local medical family, her sister Emma, the true love of Grant's life, Emma's husband Phil - all work well.
The problem, however, lies in the murder mystery, and the 'cast of thousands' (as another reviewer put it) involved in its investigation. This is a long book (7,800 Kindle locations) and by halfway through it I'd lost track of who all these Hales, Humbersides, Unsworths, Swans, Bates, Masters, Bowles (and a few others) were. By the time the murderer/hostage taker's identity was revealed, I could barely remember who they were. It's partly that the book is simply too long and disjointed, but also that the author does seem to expect you to remember everything as clearly as she does, so unless you've made copious notes and drawn a character chart, you can find yourself in a new scene feeling utterly lost. I stuck with it to the end, but I'm afraid I didn't find it a worthwhile experience.