A Water Sports Centre in Germany (Berlin Wall yet to fall). The day begins with foreboding and ends in tragedy. Likeable Brit. Craig MacInnes tells how his life changed for ever....
There is much to admire in this first novel but, overall, it does not quite work. Ironically one reason may be found in why Craig finds parts of the unabridged "Moby Dick" heavy reading, it so "exhaustively detailed". Impact here would be gained if certain aspects of daily routine (etc.) were glossed over. Some readers may also lose patience whenever the narrative moves from the day itself. For example, that account of Gerd's early dramatic East Germany adventures lasts over one hundred pages. It is gripping reading most certainly, but seems to have strayed in from somewhere else altogether - a tale worth developing in its own right. Here it simply holds everything up. Admittedly the aim is to show throughout how Fate can take such unexpected turns, but attempts to link the various strands may appear contrived and counterproductive.
I enjoyed the skilful characterization, the humour, Craig's banter with his mates, the ways he brings out the best in the children being supervised. Less happy are details of how much alcohol he and colleagues consume whilst on duty - this at variance with the conscientious attitude otherwise shown. Somehow it makes this particular imminent catastrophe less out of the blue, instead something just waiting to happen. Had the lifeguards been sober, greater impact would surely have been made.
Although ultimately less effective than it might have been, this novel contains much to make one look forward to the second. Take that disturbing encounter between Craig and the thuggish German father, he so determined to be obnoxious. Here the writing is totally focussed, the episode positively bristling with menace. How Craig's grandfather survived the merchant ship sinking is also grippingly told. It is just that the book's various aspects are not smoothly interwoven, emphasis not always where most needed.