cliffhanger

Hold on tight.

“It sounded simple enough.”

This review feels like it’s going to be a bit difficult because I’m going to try and spoil as little of it as possible, and it’s one of those books that is so full of twists that it’s more a ball of kitten-tampered yarn than a novel.

This is the story of Al Greenwood who, after many years of marriage (some happy, some less-so), has decided that he’s had enough of his wife Audrey and it’s time he bumped her off. He suggests a trip up to the cliffs near their home, where no one will be able to see him, and he can simply push her over. Getting her worked up, she storms off ahead of him, heading right for the edge. Waiting for his moment, he moves suddenly and shoves her in the back, sending her plummeting over the edge and into the English Channel.

And that’s about all I can tell you, because from there his life begins to unravel and he finds himself having to commit more and more crimes to get away with the previous ones. It’s a very clever, and darkly hilarious, thriller. The chapters which seem to get progressively longer add to the tension of the whole thing, as a cast of less-than-pleasant characters, with Al himself at the helm, parade themselves around you. There’s the policeman, Adam Rump, who appears far more interested in carp than catching criminals, former rock chick neighbour Alice Blackstock who can’t let go entirely of her past, Wacko Jacko the mad Scotsman who works on the army base and Major Fortingall, a military man chasing a slightly suspicious package left in Al’s taxi.

The book is incredibly dark in places, with gallows humour woven throughout. The characters are nasty almost without exception, and you can never be sure who knows what and who is playing anyone off against anyone else. In a small village like this one, people talk, and someone might just have seen you in a place you didn’t want to be seen. It’s a story about love and marriage, and what the banality of both can do to you, and also about how sometimes a man’s love of his fish can come before the love of his wife.

Somewhat gory, slightly bittersweet and wildly readable, it’s a very interesting book which dances over itself like two carp in a pond to produce a surprisingly satisfying ending.

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