Cold Calling by Russell Mardell

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Cold Calling by Russell Mardell

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Original, fresh novel, telling the story of a telephone friendship. Lots of humanity. Lots of witty one-liners. And people you'll recognise. Recommended. Russell Mardell popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: February 2016
Publisher: Troubador
ISBN: 978-1785891212

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Five years on, Ray still can't get over the loss of his girlfriend. Five years is a long, long time to pine and mourn but Ray just doesn't seem to be able to get off the treadmill of it all. The only meaningful relationships he has are with his therapist and best friend Danny. And it's not as though his job provides much in the way of escape - Ray works for an insurance company as a cold caller. This is how, one day, he comes to speak to Anya.

At first look, Anya's life is much more successful. She runs a business. Has a husband. Has friends, including Eva - a writer for children who can't stand children. Eva needs a lot of support. But Anna has issues and secrets of her own.

That first cold call is not the last. Ray and Anya strike up a friendship. And when Ray is asked to reform his old college band for a friend's wedding and to go back to his hometown and his old life, it is to Anya he turns with his fears...

Oh! Cold Calling was unexpected. It's told from the points of view of not just the cold callers Ray and Anna, but also their friends Danny and Eva. Four narrators, you might say, that sounds a bit messy and confusing. And, in a way, it is. But I think that's the clever thing about this story. Life is messy. Life is confusing. We don't always say what we mean. And as we follow Ray and Anya's friendship grow and as we watch events unfold, we see it all interrogated by four points of view. And it actually isn't confusing at all. What it is, is very, very human.

I loved the dialogue, which is full of clever one-liners and lots of dry wit. We talk like this in my family. The whole book felt very, very British. Mockery is a national pastime but it's also a national form of self defence, don't you think? And there's some great observation of the finer details of everyday life. You'll recognise people you know in Cold Calling, I'm sure. Ray, who is accustomed to talking to his therapist, opens up more quickly than Anya, who battens down the hatches and compartmentalises everything the better to avoid facing up to things.

It's a romantic story but it's not really a romance. It's a story of friendship and a story of feeling isolated. It's also a story about facing up to your secrets and your past so that you are able to move on. No spoilers from me, but I thought the ending was perfectly done. Not trite, not ruthless, but real. Cold Calling felt fresh and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you enjoy social dramas with an element of comedy and an unusual structure, you might want to look at Unfaithfully Yours by Nigel Williams. This time told through letters rather than telephone calls.

You can read more about Russell Mardell here.

Bookinterviews.jpg Russell Mardell was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

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Buy Cold Calling by Russell Mardell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cold Calling by Russell Mardell at


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