Cross, Neil - 'Captured'
This is one of those books for which you will have to set aside an hour or two to read from first page to last without a break. When you have finished it, you'll need to do something very warm and comforting, like stroke the cat or have a drink of rich hot chocolate.
This book is the reading equivalent of a dank, cold, abandoned caravan, gathering mildew in the corner of a field and smelling musty, stale and unpleasant when you open the door. The novel opens bleakly with a young artist, Kenny, being told that he has an inoperable brain tumour and only a few weeks to live – weeks in which he'll suffer seizures and gradually lose control of his faculties. Kenny accepts the news phlegmatically, deciding to make a list of people he's known or met in the past to whom he wants to make amends. The list is short, and Kenny's quest goes all right at first. Until, that is, he tries to track down a girl he knew in primary school - the only one of his classmates who showed him any kindness, but who vanished at the end of one term.
Kenny enlists the help of a retired policewoman, Pat, to find the girl. She in turn pays an ex-colleague turned private detective, Paul, to find out the information. Paul provides the goods; Pat pays him and passes the news to Kenny. Unfortunately, what Paul has discovered gives Kenny a mission, a mission that lurches out of control and into a horrid, visceral nightmare, fuelled by Kenny's increasing sense of desperation as his time runs out.
As this book is so brief, I will provide no more plot details in this review. It's an intense, rather depressing read but undoubtedly powerful and imaginative. On the one had the author shows a total lack of sentimentality concerning the plot, particularly in a predictable slight twist in the tail, but on the other hand he convincingly portrays warm characters, particularly Kenny's ex-wife Mary and her second partner, Stever. What is perhaps most arresting about the book is how much sympathy the reader feels, and continues to feel, for Kenny, despite his terrible actions.
Neil Cross is an experienced, successful TV scriptwriter, perhaps best known for creating the BBC spy drama Spooks. CAPTURED is perfect material for a TV movie; reading it, one can imagine every scene and how it could play out on screen. It's an impressive achievement, but definitely a cold one. Throw a log on the fire and snuggle under a warm blanket before reading!
Read another review of CAPTURED.
Maxine Clarke, England