Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
Oh where do I start here? I absolutely loved Michael Robotham’s debut novel The Suspect. So I was quick to get my hands on Lost when I realised it was out there. But there was also some trepidation on my part, when I had that weighty tome in my hands and contemplated the start of the book. The Suspect centred on the protagonist of Joseph (Joe) O’Loughlin, a psychotherapist and main suspect in an investigation led by Vincent Ruiz of the Met; but with Lost, DI Ruiz becomes the main protagonist, with Joe his ever present mate.
Still with me? (Just think of them as motorbike rider and side car sitter, with a swap between books.)
My trepidation was a lost cause. The swap on protagonist does not matter one iota here. Robotham can do something I’ve not seen with other writers.
In the second novel of a series he still creates immense pace and superb characterisation, mixed with intriguing and moving plot, even if that main protagonist has changed. In this novel, we get to know Ruiz the Met Cop, and what a delight that is. He’s a sharp guy with a sharp tongue and sharp mind; but also, the sharp extends to his wit, which comes to the fore so often. I loved it.
He’s a man without a memory at the start of this book. But Joe helps him to recover. To where, is questionable. He remembers the facts of the case, eventually, but also, along the way, he faces memories of his own life and origins that he’d perhaps prefer to have buried. All of this drip feeds into a fast moving and exciting plot.
This book is a tour de force of wit and pace and plot.
The story revolves around the case of a missing girl for whom a ransom was sought, and paid, but the kidnapped girl never surfaced, alive or dead. Ruiz headed the investigation that saw the conviction of a man now working on an appeal, soon to come to court. But … Three years later it appears that another ransom has been communicated and that’s when it all goes wrong. Ruiz is convinced that the girl is still alive, but we find him at the opening of the book, waking up in hospital to a badly shot leg and intensive medical care, as well as a lost memory, even if he prefers all things to be otherwise.
It was very easy to warm to Joe in the first book; Ruiz was a bit of a runt to be hated, to be honest. But time moves on and now, Ruiz is our key man, and oh, how we learn to love him, given what we discover about the man and his background. (It’s no doubt that Joe became a good mate.)
Lost will keep you turning the pages into the night. Beware repetitive strain injury! (Especially if you read The Suspect in close proximity.)
Robotham deliberately chose to write in the present tense in his books. He feels it is an aid to creating pace and that is clear in both novels. He does it so well. The past tense is the hearing of someone’s recollection of a story; the present is a real time ride and therefore much more difficult to put down, when reading.
One final thing, a thought from a tangent – it is interesting to consider where Robotham is going with this series. Joe was once the main protagonist and now it is Vincent. Joe is a family man with young children, but he also suffers from the debilitating and progressive illness of Parkinson’s disease. Vincent, we learn in Lost, is hovering around the 60 mark when it comes to age. An older detective is not good… Cue Rankin’s Rebus, who is forced to retire soon because of real time writing and the fact that Rebus is now, therefore, approaching retirement. Mark Billingham is already aware of the impending and growing pressures on his Tom Thorne character, where Thorne is mid-life and the writing real time. So, what can Robotham do with these characters? And where is this series likely to go?
Only Robotham knows. But one thing’s for certain; it all adds to the excitement in anticipation.
It’s a long while since I read The Suspect, but I whole heartedly recommend both that and Lost. I’d describe Robotham’s books as a roller coaster ride with material droppings of emotional intelligence. All readers will find themselves side car!
The author’s website can be found at: http://www.michaelrobotham.com/