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Stylish novel - not sure about the substance
on 16 September 2013
I have long been an admirer of much of Mark Lawson's work, including his incisive interviewing on TV. However, I found this novel ultimately disappointing, which is a shame because so much effort has clearly gone into creating it.
The deaths are made known to us in the first sentence, which also makes reference to `the country's sudden obsession with coffee', in this case that being delivered to a wealthy household, who inhabit a Georgian building, near 3 others occupied also by other wealthy people. The 4 families all interact together, sharing social occasions and often, in the case of the men, the commute to work.
Throughout there are well drawn episodes relating to the police investigation, one which appears to be quite static, since there is no apparent mystery concerning who is responsible. This is not really giving anything away because the ultimate intention seems to be to show that the 8 adults really do not know as much about each other as they may have thought. The deaths are a device on which the author hangs the narrative and the rather sharp social comments.
The author makes some well observed points relating to a part of modern life but I just do not like the narrative style, which is often placed around set pieces e.g. a holiday abroad and finally a funeral. Unless my copy is flawed, there is at least one point where the narrative segues into another completely different episode.
There are many amusing rhyming phrases e.g. Annoy Tannoy but again, this is all about style over substance. For me, the main problem is that I just did not care about any of the characters, none of whom are memorable - and certainly not likeable, with perhaps one exception.
Overall, some sharp comments about modern life as lived by one sector of the population but not an engaging narrative and characters that will not remain with me.
On an incidental note, when I first picked this up I thought that I had been sent a copy of Julian Barnes `Love, Etc' because the covers are so similar.