Author: Barry Maitland
Publisher: Allen & Unwin (2008)
Two twenty-something friends, Josh and Anna, meet up in Sydney four years after they spent their university days together. Anna was recently at the hospital bedside of another of their friends who, just before he died, made a startling confession about the earlier death from a supposed rock-climbing accident of Josh’s ex-girlfriend Luce. When Anna tells Josh of the confession the two begin to question the stories they’ve heard about Luce’s last days and determine to learn whether or not their friends were lying all along.
This is an engaging, page-turner of a story. There’s no trail of murdered people (one possible murder hardly constitutes a trail) or continuous revealing of forensic details yet it was totally compelling reading. Mostly through Josh’s memories of his first encounter with Luce and becoming her rock climber partner we get to know Luce alive. Then, as he and Anna talk to the people who were present during the rock climbing expedition that claimed Luce’s life, we find out about her death. Although there’s an inevitability about some parts of the resolution it’s in no way clichéd or predictable.
I’m still not sure if I like any of the characters particularly well but they are terrifically created and very credible. Luce’s connection to nature, Josh’s guilt over the way he left her and the possibility he might have been responsible for her death and Anna’s insecurities and doggedness are all very realistic. I developed very clear pictures of them all in my head as I read which, for me, is a sure sign of a well written book.
As is the way I was quickly engrossed by subjects I know, and care, little about such as rock-climbing. It’s not an easy feat to engage readers with esoteric subjects and Maitland’s ability to do so here reminded me of Dick Francis, who I’ve always considered a master at that particular art.
Overall this is a surprisingly gripping yarn in the tradition of the great story-tellers and, even better, is a standalone novel which is wonderful for readers like me who are suffering a little from series-fatigue.
My rating 4/5