15 March 2008

THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH, Douglas Kennedy

At 386 pages this is quite a long read, and I don't remember how it got onto my lists. Someone recommended it somewhere and obviously I thought it sounded interesting. But by page 250 I was beginning to wonder whether I was really all that interested in continuing.

Let me tell you about it without giving too much away.

The year his life as an American college professor fell apart, Harry Ricks fled to Paris with all his worldly wealth. Arriving in mid-winter he checks into a hotel where he is laid low by some sort of flu and is befriended by the hotel's night porter who helps him find cheap accommodation. He finds a job as a night watchman just watching TV monitors, letting people in and out of the building by pressing a button, and alerting those within to strangers in the alleyway next door. He has no idea what actually happens in the building, is told he doesn't need to know, and is paid on a daily basis, which suits him fine. When he is befriended by Margit, a Hungarian emigre, we learn more about why he left America, as he tells her his story. The man who lives in the room next door to Harry is viciously killed in the toilet they share and Harry becomes an object of police interest.

At this point I thought, here we are! Crime fiction at last. What happened next caught me truly unawares and stretched the bounds of credibility. Someone who looks for more woo-woo and para-normal in their reading might be very happy with it, just wasn't really my cup of tea, and no, it's not really crime fiction although at a stretch you could call it a mystery.

It's not that its badly written, perhaps it could have done with a bit of pruning, and the story threads themselves were interesting, just that I was expecting something else perhaps.

My rating: 3.9

1 comment:

maxine said...

His first two novels were real nail-biting page-turners, I thought -- the first was called The Job, about the disintegration of an ad salesman. Maybe it would seem a bit dated today as the theme has been done several times since, but I loved it.
Then, after his second book, he switched into more mainstream fiction and has written quite a few long, much more serious books-- I have attempted a couple of them (not this one) but not got on with them. He also writes an awful lot of columns in the literary pages of newspapers, book reviews, etc.
I preferred his first two books -- unpretentious, to the point, and exciting.

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