Captured by Neil Cross

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Captured by Neil Cross

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A compelling and edgy look at obsession, which does not have the perfect balance one might wish but is still mightily readable.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: January 2010
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 978-1847373977

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Kenny is dying - brain cancer is hitting him just as he's barely turning forty. As a result he compiles a short list of rights to wrong, and people to create closure with. One, his ex-wife, might not be easy, two concern a misguided sense of a guilt of old. The fourth turns out to be a missing woman. The journey he takes in that redemptive exercise is not for the squeamish.

I love Neil Cross's style. It's the blunt, matter-of-fact way he describes simple things that gets me every time. Kenny here only has to reach for the blue bucket and you're filled with dread (if incorrect as to how it's to be used). The last bedroom will not be a phrase easily and lightly used in your household after reading this.

I'm just forced by this book, and by how flawless his previous suspense title, Burial was, to make tiny little quibbling noises from my shadowy corner. I'm not sure how unsettling Kenny is supposed to seem. He started the book rubbing me up in the wrong way, and while clearly he's supposed to be some obsessive, unhinged, individual, I don't know to what extent we are expected to carry our sympathy to him through his story. He's dying, for sure; he seems to be caring, yes - but when he turns overly caring and misguided, I felt the lack of guide myself.

This carried on through the style of the book. It seemed to lurch towards grand guignol a little imperfectly, making me wonder how many people would start this book expecting something akin to a Ruth Rendell would still be there at the end, when a lot of it almost veers to becoming Shaun Hutson.

Still, when remembering how compelling the novel reads, I'm sure there won't be many with the impulse to turn away. This is definitively a one-sitting read, one blazes through it pell mell, metaphorically shading one's eyes at the darker bits, and ultimately admiring how well the whole world of the story is wrapped up in many unexpected destinies.

Cross adds lots of nice touches to the narrative, to open it out from the linear darkness it might have been. There's a nice sense of it being spread around a few locales in the southwest, and (what was in the UK) a newsworthy detail of life grounds the story artistically and in our recent memory. These all add up to make Kenny, however unsettling, a real person, and the plight he finds himself both in and inflicting on others, a clever, frenetic and very enjoyable read.

Feel free to ignore my minor quibbles, for very minor they are. You will only find an admirable page-turner here. But I didn't put words like shadow, dark and darkness in a majority of my paragraphs for no reason - this will be a little too much for some stomachs.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

I know this is branching out on a limb, but an equally compelling read with a further unusual Kenny, is in The Good People by Steve Cockayne - different genre, different approach, different style, same measure of brilliance.

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Buy Captured by Neil Cross at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Captured by Neil Cross at


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