I must be honest and say that when I realised one of the main characters in this one had Asperger’s syndrome I almost put it down again. I’m not sure how prevalent the syndrome is in society in percentage terms, but it certainly features a little more heavily in my reading. But I’m so glad I wasn’t put off – I’d heard the reviews and conversation on Simon Mayo’s Book Club on Radio 2, and it had really caught my fancy – because this was an thoroughly excellent read.
Patrick – the one with Asperger’s – goes to University in Cardiff to study anatomy as one of their “quota” students in an attempt to understand the sudden death of his father. His relationship with his mother is a difficult one for a number of reasons, his obsession with dying included.
Meanwhile, a self-obsessed nurse (a wonderful creation) “looks after” a ward of coma patients while eating the patients’ chocolates and plotting a better life. One of the story’s narrators is a patient on that ward, having crashed his car by skidding on ice while trying to retune his car radio from the Pina Colada song.
Patrick uncovers a mystery around the cause of death of the cadaver he is involved in dissecting, and sets about finding the solution. The threads of the story slowly come together with a wonderful sequence of twists, turns and surprises, all driven by Patrick’s thirst for a logical solution.
It’s always so difficult writing reviews of thrillers because of the fear of revealing spoilers, but suffice to say that this is real edge-of-your-seat reading, with some wonderfully drawn characters, a strong main story thread driven by Patrick’s complex character, and a few sub-threads that intrigue and satisfy. The whole structure of the book is a real tour-de-force – you sometimes wonder where it’s going, but feel confident in the hands of a masterful storyteller. The anatomy classes are as vividly drawn as they should be (if perhaps not for everyone), but there are equally some wonderful touches of black humour drawn from the characters and the situations in which they find themselves.
Overall a wonderful read, impossible to put down, taut and full of suspense, and with some of the most strongly drawn characters I’ve come across in a long time. Highly recommended.
My thanks to netgalley and Transworld/Bantam Press for providing an ARC of the e-book for review.