Friday, 29 March 2013

Book Review - The Breach - Patrick Lee

F. Paul Wilson (author of the excellent The Keep and The Tomb) recommended this on Twitter. If F likes it, it's got to be great.

And it is. It's a strange book to review because any discussion of the plot would contain far too many spoilers. Which would spoil it. I can tell you about the inciting incident that sets the ball rolling. Travis Chase is an ex-con, fresh out of the pokey, who embarks on a hiking trip into the Alaskan wilds. Very quickly he stumbles across something that shouldn't be there. And that's all I'm going to say. (It's not the titular breach either.)

This book must have taken a long, long time to plan. It is fairly complicated and is a bit of a test for the old grey matter. I'm not completely sure that I've got my head around all of the implications yet. There are so many unexpected twists and turns that it leaves you with a post-waltzer chucking-up type of feeling. It will be interesting to read it again knowing how everything fits together and hopefully being able to follow the logic. The one downside of all this twisty turniness is that many of the chapters end with a suitably twisty turny sentence, designed to keep the reader turning pages even at two o'clock in the morning (this happened to me a few times). It does get a bit tiresome after a while, but only a smidge.

If there's a problem in a story where an item is required to solve it, then the author has to make sure that that item is introduced earlier on in the book. 'The Breach' has many of these items, sometimes used in an obvious fashion, sometimes used in the most surprising of ways. Again, the planning must have been immense. Some items come perilously close to being a deux ex machina, but the central conceit craftily allows the author to include them.

I really enjoyed 'The Breach' and I highly recommend it, but I don't think that it will ever enter into the upper echelons of my top books. As with films, I love atmosphere. It has some in the opening chapters but quickly loses it as the plot moves away from Alaska. The characters are likeable but never really venture out of the second division. 'The Breach' is all about the plot. And the plot is premium quality. There are two more Travis Chase books in the series which F describes as 'insane'. Sounds good to me. Like I said at the start: if F likes it, it's got to be great. 


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