Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding

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Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This debut novel sees the main character driving across America in his own unique fashion. Fleeing from his troubled past, he hooks up with individuals who are mainly from the underbelly of American society, en route to his destination on this highly-charged road trip.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099539933

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The novel opens with the (unnamed) central character in a therapy session in downtown New York. The air is charged and tension is present, big-time. This is one troubled human being. And of course, childhood issues and experiences are dominant in this question and answer session. We soon find out that this individual has secrets in his basement. It all becomes too much, he packs a bag and hits the road and so the story starts proper.

The language used by Wilding is sparse, taut and full of energy. Bad energy. It seems to seep out of many of the pages adding to the atmosphere and overall menace of the book. If you like this type of story, you really couldn't ask for more. And as he eats up the miles, we come across some ahem, interesting people. For example, a couple of deer hunters (a particular kill is described in all its gore, perhaps not for the squeamish) It was odd ... how they always felt so alive amongst death. Sentences like that really make you sit up and take notice.

There are plenty of in the main, chilling and creative sentence all over this book. Sentences like ... He'd left home ... leaving his life there unboxed, the contents strewn across the basement floor. This sentence is an important one and it may very well come back to haunt you, as it did me. The reader shares these strange, one-off encounters and they are in the main, about damaged individuals often leading sordid lives. And the writing throughout is good without over-playing the sensationalism. I met individuals within these pages that I'd rather not have, quite frankly. That's how good the writing is. It all makes for an arresting, dark read. There are very little (if any) lighter moments. It just gets darker and murkier by the chapter. Terrific. The clues are in the title and there is an explanation right at the end.

The central character (not even given a name by Wilding until well into the story and of course this is deliberate) appears to half-dead already. No American Dream for him. But why? Is it really too late? Cleverly, Wilding adds the odd few lines or title of a well-known pop song (usually impossibly upbeat) or a Hollywood character (usually impossibly glamorous) and which has the overall effect of bringing down the main character even further and showing him up for the sad sod that he is. Read it and weep.

On a good day, (not many of those) he tries to rummage around in the unpredictable recesses of his mind trying to make some sense of it all. This is an unsettling book. But it's also addictive, you don't really want to put it down even if it makes you feel a bit queasy in parts. The writing is so good that it's easy to visualise many of the scenarios in the book. For example, there's a piece involving a female realtor who is trying to strike up a normal conversation with an awkward client - pure theatre.

Wilding has created a bunch of characters who are believable and credible. They're scattered across the vastness of America. This is very much one of those all-American books where the author gives his/her readers many metaphorical punches and bruises. A gritty read. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this appeals, try The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman or The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy.

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Buy Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cross Country Murder Song by Philip Wilding at


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