Thursday 16 September 2010

Book review : Captured - Neil Cross

As I said in my last review, the problem when you really enjoy reading a book is that you await the author's next book with bated breath and always run the risk of being disappointed when it doesn't quite live up to your high expectations. That's pretty much what happened when I read Neil Cross's latest novel, Captured.

The book tells the tale of Kenny, a man who has just found out that he has a brain tumour and only weeks to live. He decides to use his final days to put the world - or at least his world -to rights and comes up with a list of people he has let down over the course of his life. The list contains four names, his ex-wife Mary, a schoolfriend called Callie and two other people whose tale, despite being hugely exploitable, barely covers a few pages before they are crossed off and forgotten about. It made me wonder if it was even worth bringing them into the story for the tiny role they played.

Kenny becomes obsessed with the third name on his list, Callie Barton, especially when it comes to light that she has disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Knowing that he has nothing to lose, Kenny crosses all the lines of what is morally or humanly right in order to achieve his final goal and uncover her whereabouts. His behaviour becomes more and more extreme and psychotic, which would be slightly far-fetched if we didn't have the brain tumour sending him slightly mad and the mental problems of his father, mentioned in the opening chapter, which may have been handed down to the next generation.

The basic storyline is fast-paced and gripping. It's a constant "will-he-won't-he?", both with regards to Kenny and his captive (Callie's husband Jonathan, whom Kenny suspects murdered her). Will Kenny beat him to death ? Will Jonathan confess ? Did he actually do it ? The reader is constantly on edge and the tension is maintained until the final pages, when it all becomes clear.

What I disliked was the basic premise of the book. The plot seemed paper-thin to me and there were several inconsistencies which annoyed me. Kenny wants to make it up to the people he let down, but he never did anything to let down Callie. She was just a classmate from junior school who was kind to him then moved away, so she never had any reason to be on his list in the first place. I also found the final scenes between Kenny and Jonathan unconvincing. If a man has been holding you hostage, starving you and repeatedly beating you with a crowbar for days, would you really help him out when you were finally freed ? And would you even have the strength ? The Pat/Paul scenario also seemed unconvincing to me too. And I mentioned the inconsistencies - Kenny is supposed to be in his early forties (he is said to be aged ten in 1979) but the final page mentions his white hair. It's true, the shock of discovering he had only weeks to live could have made him go grey overnight but there is no mention of this so it just seemed wrong.

It's still an enjoyable read but I didn't feel entirely convinced and certainly nowhere near as emotionally-engaged or sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat as when I read Neil's previous novel, Burial.

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £12.99

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (7 Jan 2010)
ISBN-10: 1847373976
ISBN-13: 978-1847373977

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Burial by Neil Cross
Book review : Live To Tell - Lisa Gardner
Book review : Nine Dragons - Michael Connelly
Book Review : Little Girls Lost - J. A. Kerley

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