This is a who-dunnit, with the main protagonist being an investigative reporter who takes up a commission to write an old man’s biography. But his real mission is to investigate the disappearance of a young girl.
The journalist’s task is complicated by the fact the events took place many years previously and there is considerable antagonism displayed by other family members to the supposed biography. In addition, the journalist faces an impending spell in prison and is embroiled in a messy love life.
This is the first book of a trilogy and I confess I haven’t read the other two in the series yet.
What I liked about this book: I liked the density of the story. There was a real sense of place and the characters were well rounded. Tension and uncertainty were maintained throughout the book and the resolution of the mystery was credible but unexpected. The plot was complex. There was no artificial happy ending.
What I didn’t like: The book began slowly and I was put off by the extended family and the parade of different characters with their foreign names, making it hard to follow who was who – despite the helpfully provided family tree.
In fact, the main problem I had with the beginning of the story was my uncertainty about who to identify with. Initially, it seemed unclear who the main character was, until the author appeared to settle on the journalist. It was brought home to me how important this element is to a reader. Near the beginning of any book, we expect to know who the story is about. Who do we focus our attention on?
There is a part of the book, near the end, where a particularly horrendous series of crimes is uncovered. This is never satisfactorily dealt with (maybe it is revisited in subsequent book in the series) and almost pushed aside as being too complex to address. I felt the late revelation of this aspect of the story, and the almost dismissive trivialisation of the crimes, was unsatisfactory and undermined some of the realism of the rest of the book.
But this is a great book and well worth reading. It demands some attention. I plan to read the next two books in the trilogy, but I am waiting for some dedicated reading time to appear in my schedule.