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4.0 out of 5 stars Plots as cool as the snow on the mountain passes, 20 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Missing Room (Paperback)
There's something about the construction of the big old farmhouse with its larger, later L-shaped addition that doesn't quite add up.

Thereupon, Brian Jarman hangs his tale of various riddles wrapped up in enigmas which becomes 'The Missing Room' - a cracking story of a life being lived a long way short of full throttle because of illness and mysteries just beyond reach.

I'll spare you details of plot twists and turns because they would spoil the elements of surprise.

Suffice to say that there are two central characters.

There's Lloyd, a high functioning man prone to ME relapses who later develops a drinking problem as he tries to blot out some unpleasant surprises.

He's a bit of a high flyer - a young diplomat who can no longer cut the mustard in his South American posting and is forced to take some home leave.

And there's the house - The Noddfa (Sanctuary) - set in high country in Ceredigion, mid-Wales, with the room with no windows and apparently no doors and a strange cast of inhabitants reigned over by Auntie Mona, who really is as solid a force of nature as they come.

Strangely, the house is far from an inanimate object, though thankfully there's not a trace of Stephen King-type supernatural hocus pocus. This book rests firmly on the foundations of the here and now, or the here and what was.

Jarman writes beautifully of time and place - the sort of place that Dr Andy Beaumont, who is walking all of the highest peaks in Wales to raise money for The ME Association - will know only too well.

The snow-laden passes of Plynlimon in the mid-Wales massif, visits to neighbours to relive past memories, journeys around, across the tops to Shrewsbury and by contrast some time spent in more prosaic surroundings in London spring vividly to life in his 250 pages.

You can sense the snow in the air as they wait for the snow plough to pass them so they can resume their car ride at The Devil's Elbow, where the car holding Lloyd's mother and father ran off the road several years previously.

And the description of the King's Cross drinking den bought back memories of beer-fuelled lunches as a cub reporter - long before the `lunch hour' signed its own death warrant in my circle some time in the `Seventies.

There's an attempt to force the analogy of The Missing Room to fit the empty corners of one's own life that didn't work so well. By good fortune, it took up just half a page. It was the only bum note in the book.

Tony Britton, Publicity Manager, The ME Association
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