Top critical review
on 11 June 2014
Almost Deaver-esque in the twists and turns, and as ever Mr James draws you into the world of the book and makes you keep flicking the pages - or rather tapping the right hand side of the 'Kindle' - furiously. But after the dust, or perhaps more properly, ash, has settled, the holes become apparent. "Red?" What is that short for? If it is her hair colour the police would not use it but use her first name. Bryce, or whatever his alias - how can he have a colourful career in the US, be a talented magician with sophisticated surveillance skills, escapologist, pyrotechnician etc., a sort of Jack Reacher gone bad, yet be incapable having the patience to handle either a real job or relationships. The recurring motifs - the Queen of Hearts, the Van Morrison track, the Groundhog Day visions / feelings Roy has etc. - all create a Gothic unreality that takes us into an off-kilter parallel universe, reinforced by Sandy's almost mystical presence. The names add to the unreality: Cassian Pewe, Alison Vosper etc. And the plot holes: would the escaping Red not go straight to the police, as another reviewer has pointed out? The fireman false suspect just doesn't add up either. There is the obvious cliched manipulation of our sympathies as the unlikely happiness of a couple of characters is stressed so we just KNOW disaster is around the corner. Perhaps most disturbing is the nod in the acknowledgements to "those involved in the struggle against domestic abuse," when Mr James has provided outlandish situations aplenty for anyone who gets off on reading about it.
It is a tribute to Mr James's skill as a writer that these thoughts were delayed until the book was over, but nevertheless they remain as the book's after-life in the head: seductive though the writing and plot are, the whole thing is engaging - but bonkers.