Tag Archives: literary thriller

Review of Touch by Claire North


I’ve been a major fan of this author during her incarnation as Kate Griffin – see my review of The Glass God here. But I was blown away last year by her first Claire North book The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, which is on the literary end of the fantasy genre and is simply remarkable – see my review here. Would I find Touch as impressive?

TouchHe tried to take my life. Instead, I took his. It was a long time ago. I remember it was dark, and I didn’t see my killer until it was too late. As I died, my hand touched his. That’s when the first switch took place. Suddenly, I was looking through the eyes of my killer, and I was watching myself die. Now switching is easy. I can jump from body to body, have any life, be anyone. Some people touch lives. Others take them. I do both.

So there you have it. The premise is that there are a few individuals out there who can inhabit a body with a simple touch, skin on skin. And we’re right alongside Kepler as he comes under a sudden, shocking attack. The book takes us on a tension-filled adventure as he struggles to discover exactly who is stalking him and why. It would be an intriguing page-turner if it was a straight thriller. But, this being North, it also becomes far more than that.

She takes us inside the mind of Kepler in the first person viewpoint. We learn the origins of his current existence and throughout the book, we also learn of how and when he jumped. And details of his career as an estate agent. No… he wasn’t busy selling houses – he was checking out suitable hosts for the scattered community of others like him. They mostly wanted people who were young, healthy and rich – or those down on their luck willing to agree to donate a slice of their life to come out the other end drug-free with a lump sum in their bank account…

These insights intersperse the main narrative – a roller-coaster chase in which Kepler is both pursued and pursuer as he tried to unravel exactly who is behind the attack on him. I can’t say too much more without straying into spoiler territory, which in a classy thriller of this calibre would be little short of wicked – suffice to say that after you’ve read it, a certain catchphrase will send a shiver up your spine. By any measure, this book is worth reading – both as a slice of escapist adventure and as an examination on the human condition. So once more, North has nailed it. This prolific and multi-talented author has already racked up an impressive back catalogue and is still only in her 20’s.
She is an outstanding talent, who goes on getting better with every book. I can’t wait to see what she will next produce.

Review of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan


A kind soul lent me this book after a discussion in one of my Creative Writing classes about dramatic beginnings. And he certainly wasn’t wrong…

enduringloveJoe Rose has planned a romantic picnic with his lover Clarissa after having been away on business. However, the delightful idyll is horribly interrupted when a hot air balloon, attempting a landing, starts to break away from its moorings with a ten year old boy inside. Joe, along with a number of other men, rush to try and anchor it. But when the sudden wind strengthens and Joe finds himself suddenly jerked off his feet as someone else lets go, he follows suit – until only one man, John Logan, is left hanging on – until he plunges to his death… Shocked at the terrible accident and feeling guilty for letting go, Joe rushes to the spot where the dead man is lying and encounters Jed Parry. They exchange a passing glance and Jed, suffering from de Clerambault’s syndrome, immediately falls passionately in love with Joe, with dire consequences.

The novel is a close examination about the nature of love. As Jed’s misplaced passion creates increasing problems for Joe, his relationship with Clarissa suffers. Joe also feels impelled to visit John Logan’s widow – only to discover that she is convinced that her dead husband was entertaining a lover at the time of the accident. Sickened by the discovery, Jean Logan is bitter and furious, rather than grieving…

I found the book a riveting read. These days, I don’t generally bother with literary novels, but this really is excellent. The steadily building tension as Joe struggles to cope with Jed’s stalking and the fault-lines it exposes in his relationship with Clarissa are masterfully depicted. While the sudden plot twists, particularly near the end of the book were all the more shocking for the detailed exposition by Joe of his increasing alienation with his everyday life. I also found the Afterword disturbing – the ‘enduring love’ of the title wasn’t the love between Joe and Clarissa, or Jean and John Logan – it was poor Jed Parry’s obsession with Joe. This short novel will stay with me for a very long time. The unsettling message that the idealisation of romantic love comes at a very high price if taken too far may not be a new one – you only have to recall Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady sonnets. But McEwan’s skilled and thought-provoking treatment left me pondering uneasily about the exact nature of passion.