Burial by Neil Cross
|Burial by Neil Cross|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: When a celebrity party turns lethal the fallout carries on over the decades in this superlative dark thriller. It reads like a gem despite being stylised, and is very highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 304||Date: August 2009|
|Publisher: Pocket Books|
Nathan cannot welcome the news Bob brings to his door one night in 2008. Not because on the surface it means the loss of some Gloucestershire greenbelt to a housing development, but because what might be ploughed up forces Nathan back to a drug-fuelled, Ouija-board-featuring, celebrity party over a decade previously.
We know Bob only through his research into the paranormal, and we have seen Nathan as something more akin to an everyman character, but there is no hope of foretelling what will happen at the party. We have no way of second-guessing all that follows on afterwards, and when the back-flash finally catches up with Bob's news again, we are still in the dark as to where this excessively gripping thriller will take us.
If your reading of thrillers so often gives you style or substance, or neither, then may I suggest this place as the beginning of an investment in change. The style is brilliant – I might call it brutal, but that seems a little too much. It certainly shares a bluntness with the events, characters and dialogue herein. The narration seems so matter-of-fact and down-to-earth, and gives us a snappy look at everything happening, with absolutely no padding. Neil Cross doesn't need the 'he said, adjective' format when scripting Spooks for the BBC and he doesn't try to use it here. It's a style that reminded me of that of David Peace, but here seemed more successful, with the one-line, one-sentence paragraphs a lot less contrived, less constrained, less straining.
And of course there's the plot, about which I can say so little. We get happenings that range from the quicky one-night-stand to falling in and out of love, from the abrupt to the gently measured, and from the everyday to the very creepy. Everything comes across with perfect realism, and these really do come across as people facing up to the unusual – or in fact behaving in perfectly explained abnormality – and not objects shunted around by an author trying to surprise us.
To explain my phrase excessively gripping, I invite you to read the last line of chapter twelve, about which I can say less. Elsewhere there have been drugs, sex and language enough to make this quite the certificate 18 read, but these few innocent words in context really do have the ability to make you grimace – and of course turn the page most eagerly. It's the quality of this book in microcosm – the way the subtly artful meets the everyday, and the sheer mastery with which the author has disguised the skilful hard work needed to make this book so light yet so dark, so relying on somewhat formulaic elements but with a winning combination, and so highly recommendable.
I don't do one in the morning unless I can really help it, but this book was almost one of those occasions when I couldn't. I was actually very happy to prolong the enjoyment that began with the first brief chapter and stayed to the quite draining end. This definitely goes into my top five books of the year.
I am very grateful for Simon and Schuster sending the Bookbag a review copy.
If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian.
You can read more book reviews or buy Burial by Neil Cross at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Burial by Neil Cross at Amazon.com.
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