A review from RAVENPASSER posted by us!
What a premise – and what a let down.
Architect Peter Crookham (Crookham??) has a perfect life – and a perfect wife. You know the kind – gorgeous, legs up to wherever, clever, witty and just a soupçon of je ne sais pas. Except that she’s German – an Ossi. Anyway, Peter comes home one night to find the lovely Mariana in a daze, and his brother Andy ‘at the centre of a spreading, swirling eruption of blood’. The stuff is everywhere ‘like the first scarlet spraying of a Jackson Pollock…dripping from the fancy leather sofas &c’ – and not just from Mariana as well but from the Ryusen Blazen kitchen knife – ‘a wide blade 240 millimetres long’ – that is resting on the ‘pure white of the Poggenpohl work surface’.
There are no other suspects. Case closed. Mariana has flipped. But why? Peter is determined to find out the truth.
So far, so excellent. Quercus’s Press Release (which calls Mariana Marina, – how confidence-inspiring is that?) tells us that author David Thomas has a ‘hugely successful thriller franchise’ behind him. Well, he’s new to me, and I would be looking for more if Blood Relative had lived up to that beginning. But one thing DT seems not to have learned is pacing. Now, in this business ‘fast-paced’ is A Good Thing, but this is ridiculous. Not only is the whole mystery cleared up in a fortnight, but a short postscript tells us that within six months Mariana’s extreme trauma is resolved – and the psychological plausibility of the plot has been fatally undermined.
This didn’t need to happen. Thomas’s writing is sleek and efficient. But why does he interrupt the striking mise-en-scène with an extended product-placement riff – Poggenpohl…Conran…Naviglio…and ‘all but one of the walls were painted in Casablanca by John Oliver: a soft, dusty, soothing and completely inimitable white emulsion’. This is a crime scene, not an interior designer’s blog. If we really need to be convinced of the high-gloss finish of the Crookham ménage, then a far better place for it would have been a couple of chapters later, when the specialist cleaners have done their work.
The mystery is solved not just too quickly but too easily. On the site of the Berlin orphanage where Mariana’s original trauma took place (yes, you’ve guessed it; though there is a twist) Peter glimpses the developer’s name on a billboard, and plonk! we know who did it. What he learns about the bad old days of the DDR he picks up on an afternoon’s guided-tour of a prison – a staggeringly disingenuous piece of plotting which hints at the author’s own research methods.
Big print and double-spaced always makes me suspicious from the get-go. I want more work from a writer – and this guy could be good, if he’d put in the hours.