So, the tag on this book said, “A new Stephen King, albeit with a British Accent” and I thought. Oh. Gag. I don’t dislike Stephen King, it just isn’t my thing. BUT, my husband had read about this book somewhere and I am always looking for a good new thriller/suspense type book to read so I kept an open mind.
The book begins in a sort of present time, first person narration. We don’t know who is narrating, we only know that this person is a shut in, has some psychological issues stemming from a “game” that a group of friends played at university. We get the sense that the narrator has struggled to accept a tragedy that happened fourteen years earlier, and self medicates. We then jump to the good old university days and meet both Chad and Jolyon, one a shy american looking to fit in, the other a charismatic brit who seems to have all he could ask for. We keep switching back and forth in the narration and are introduced to more characters, Emilia, Jack, Dee, and Mark. A majority of the transitions back and forth were pretty seamless, even eloquent, but towards the end when the action culminates it is less successful because it drastically switches emotions in some places. During a club week we find out more about this “game” and follow the characters as they play this game. The narrator lets you know immediately that playing the game was a bad idea, so as a reader you already know this thing is going to go south rather quickly… and it does. Yates does a masterful job capturing the complex dynamics within a group of friends, particularly young university students. Who is the “cute girl”? Who is the “leader”? Who is the “peacemaker”? Yates’ characters are fairly stereotypical without drifting into the land of cliche. He shows that world of young adulthood. When young twenty somethings are precocious, but don’t nearly know what they think they do.
Towards the middle of the book, you find out the identity of the narrator. I found this to be an interesting development because as a reader I’d already developed sympathies with certain characters and it made me re-examine how I felt about the story as it unfolded. Did I feel the way I felt because the narrator had led me to feel that way. Though it wasn’t necessarily a twist, it wasn’t what I expected. From this point on we also get some snippets of poetry written by Dee that go along with the story. Not going to lie, I didn’t love the poetry bits, but you can’t skip them because they do go along with the story and if you want to understand the title, then they are essential. I won’t spoil the end, but it was slightly predictable and a tad unrealistic. That being said, I was excited to get there. I was invested in the characters, I wanted to know what happened fourteen years ago and I wanted to know how it would play out in present day.
This was a fun little read. It was well written. The characters were well rounded. Yates captured an interesting dynamic of friendships, and alpha males. While this won’t go on the list of greatest thrillers ever, it is one I’ll recommend to friends. I’ll also keep an eye out for any future Christopher Yates books.