Reconstruction by Mick Herron

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Reconstruction by Mick Herron

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A gripping and literary look at a besieged nursery, with the unusual people and events that have led to such a drama. Certainly a book worthy of a five star Bookbag recommendation – if it was time for the paperback already.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: February 2008
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1845296506

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Take an average primary school, in Oxford. The usual green surrounds, high and secure fences, spongy playground surface, and nursery block cobbled out of a prefab building. Take an unusual bunch of people, from a particularly snide and bitter cleaner, a humble teacher with a past, a parent with a past and his nearly-four twin boys, to an armed besieging youth, and stir.

The point of it being an average primary school, and to all intents and purposes an average day, is nicely borne by the intimacy with which we see the various main characters start their day – crawling from humble digs, creeping from their home when they really shouldn't have to, stumbling from public conveniences…

There is a strong sense too that the book becomes not so much a thriller and more a general read because of these characters, even though they are so mystifyingly intertwined. The teacher and the parent have met, the gun-holding teenager is certainly not what one would expect, and the whole psyche of the book is built to convey that these are not ordinary people, thrust into this extraordinary story.

It is the narrative voice that bears this out – a clinically scientific approach to examining the goings-on, back stories and just generally how everything pans out. This is not to say there is no artistry to the writing, either – quite poetic elements are filtered into the telling.

All the characters are quickly and skilfully drawn, and although I can hardly remember a book where I can mention less of the plot in a review, I will say that covers the special agents and friends the main protagonists rely on to get through the siege. And all the time we have what counts as a great puzzle to try and piece all the joins together – not made easier by the very readable and speedy writing style compelling us to drop our own detective skills and read on.

It's perhaps beyond me to suggest when and where to read this book, but try picking it up at breakfast time, and live it through in nearly real time. And more, pull a sickie in order to do this – there is already a sense of being where we shouldn't (with a gun in a nursery classroom, in the character's dreams and heads so utterly) – which would only be heightened by this. But really the book serves as a perfectly fine read without such tricks, and through its own subtle machinations provides a very engaging read.

I do have to say, however, that some of the writing will not be to everyone's taste. Too many people seemed to be 34 (why this age, of all, as a crux for so many?). Some readers may find the way everyone has a secret, a past, a bitter dream keeping their mind sharp (or downright sour), a bit much. Also, for some the more poetic stylings will seem OTT – the way a bird's-eye-view is purloined for the half-way recap, for instance. There might be too many tricks involved in the timeline being bent to and fro to cover all the genre shocks from diversifying points of view.

However I could live with all that, if only because I was a lot more intent on finding out the whole gamut of secrets and conclusions the premise was bound to deliver. It really is a novel that excludes thought of practically anything else – and is a darned sight less cloying than it could be. A gunman in school would have only provided hysteria for a less talented author. Here though was a strong sense of every word being finely crafted, and practically every element in its right place – witness the claustrophobic latter sections.

Four and a half stars are all most deserved, and but for the bonus of a cheaper paperback edition, and for me being aware of the potential hindrances I mentioned, it would have my full and strongest recommendation. Reconstruction is well worth a read, and we at the Bookbag thank the publishers for sending a copy to us to read.

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