A blindingly well-written police procedural.
Gunmen attack a school in a wood on the coast of Somerset. The headteacher is shot and badly injured. He and some pupils are barricaded inside the library; other pupils are in an isolated pottery classroom, some are rehearsing Macbeth in the theatre, others are in classrooms. Rafi, a refugee from Syria with PTSD, is searching for his little brother; he also wants to keep his girlfriend safe.
It is snowing. The police are trying to find out what is happening and the parents are concerned for their kids.
It isn't perfect. I guessed the major twist well before the half-way mark. The insistent comparisons with Macbeth were sometimes intrusive. The author's message steered perilously close to propaganda and, for a moment, broke us out of the story; it wasn't needed to make the point. And it was clear from the manipulations of the plot that Rafi and Basi would have to be confronted by a gunman together as close as possible to the end. The hero was just a touch too perfect; the villains had no redeeming qualities.
But what the heck. I loved it.
It is a nail-biting page-turner which had me pacing the floor; towards the end I had a damp-eyed moment. I was never certain whether the end would be happy or sad.
Thrillers don't get better than this.
"The word 'shot' lodges in her mind, cruel and bloody, making her nauseous. 'Shot' isn't written down or spoken so she can't cover it up with her hand or shout it down and she wonders what a mind-word is if it can't be seen or heard. She thinks that consciousness is made up of silent, invisible words forming unseen sentences and paragraphs; an un written, unspoken book that makes us who we are." (1.1)
"She absolutely believes in purgatory now, knows first-hand all about purgatory, and it has a linoleum floor and Formica tables and no windows and a phone that doesn't ring." (1.10)
December 2020; 305 pages
Rosamund Lupton has also written Sister.
|The writer of this review, Dave Appleby, |
is author of the novel Motherdarling