I love a book which starts with a murder – it establishes the genre swiftly and we all know where we stand. The dead man is unnamed – we’ll get confirmation of his identity halfway through the novel – and the plotting is superb from the outset. Brookmyre is a talented crime writer, setting up clues and red herrings with aplomb. As a thriller, this is well-paced; I liked the switching backwards and forwards in time, enabling us to build a picture of the devastating events of 2002, and inviting us to develop our own theories about the events unfolding in 2018 as a result. The 2018 chapters are written in the present tense, meaning that there’s a real sense of immediacy to the multiple narratives, ideal for this genre.
The action takes place in a villa in Portugal, creating a heightened sense of claustrophobia and providing the perfect stage for this modern version of a Greek tragedy to unfold. We become increasingly aware that tensions run high in the family of the recently deceased academic Max Temple. He has made his name debunking popular conspiracy theories, something which plays out very cleverly in the novel. Extracts from his published works are interposed between chapters, establishing him as a voice of intellectual authority. His wife, Celia, is an aging actress who is struggling to give up the limelight. Following her career in film, she has established herself, through the authorship of a family column in a newspaper, as a bastion of maternal good sense. Both Celia and Max have become public figures, regarded as the heads of a largely happy, successful family.
Their children have spent years orbiting their parents’ lives, and it is through them that we see the cracks in the façade. I was particularly taken with the character of Sylvie, or Ivy as she now chooses to be called, but all the characters provide intriguing insights into the complexities of a family. The consequences of power and guilt play out in fascinating ways as the novel progresses and the reader waits for the resolution of the death set up at the beginning. Brookmyre builds up his hand of cards adeptly before slowly laying them out, one by one, to achieve a highly satisfying conclusion. I raced through this novel – it ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for an intriguing thriller with twists aplenty. Good stuff!
My thanks to Caolinn Douglas and Little, Brown for my review copy. Join the rest of the blog tour here: