Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
|Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A reasonable thriller, from someone more known for 'straight' fiction, that suitably plies the emotions with its strong plotting.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: July 2017|
|External links: Author's website|
It's Christmas, what could go wrong? More than that, it's Christmas on holiday, on a cruise down the Pacific coast of Latin America from near LA. Perfect, then, for two cousins – ladies both with their own husband and two kids each – to get away from what life's currently giving them, namely high-pressure work, and grief. But labours and worries and grief will only be exacerbated, when a trip ashore goes horrendously wrong, and practically the only six children on board go missing…
This is a pretty enjoyable thriller, with just the right amount of craft about it. I wasn't entirely convinced that, even if there were so few children aboard, the four in the extended family would always keep bumping into the other two, teenaged children to an Argentinian couple; this is one of those huge American cruise liners. I did manage to let that pass – as I did the slightly unusual geography that allows the author to get away with what she makes the children undergo. I did see the author speed through the bit where camera crews descend on a remote location to record missing children appeals by the parents in world record time, which was quite unlikely, but at the same time a lot of what happens at the crux times (and how we get to see it from all angles) is just logical, and correct, and right. So the only other question-mark to mention, then, is the fact that we're never told which country we're in – but this is a book that is not going to shed everything in the brightest of tourism-friendly lights…
Coming through the darkness are well-wrought characters, the connections and differences between the women and their families easily conveyed. Similarly, the children all stand out suitably. It's all quite deft, but if you've yet to notice, we've tagged this as a thriller only – this is not one of those books that is about anything, beyond the obvious emotional heft of the parents being without their offspring. This author has been included in those occasional Granta Best-Of lists, but while she touches almost apologetically on a sort of colonial attitude the American parents occasionally feel about their situation, and maternity/paternity is an obvious element, this plays by genre rules.
That said, I felt scope for more, and more in many directions – there could have been more threat, more drama (certainly towards the end, where we kind of tail off), more of a look at the Americans Abroad . There are certainly times where we could not want for more – there are some very dramatic scenes, and happenings, and as a result I'd slap a 15 certificate on it if it were a film – but looking back over a couple of evenings' reading I was convinced the author had it in her to match her highly successful genre tropes with something else from her own, straight story-telling craft. The locale and circumstances do make this distinctive, don't get me wrong, but it's not the perfect and complete read it aspires to be.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
The dark dangers of parenthood and family are certainly to the fore in the likes of Low Heights by Pascal Garnier and Melanie Florence (translator). Ms Meloy has stretched herself in the past – with the likes of a cold war thriller for children.
You can read more book reviews or buy Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.