Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Final Silence by Stuart Neville

Raymond Drew wanted to die on the towpath.

Thus begins a scene with a character wanting to die because if he is taken to a hospital his secrets of who he really is will be revealed when relatives go to his house, and it is insinuated that he is not a good guy.

Apparently, the guy is having a heart attack or something of the sort. It was expected; doctors told him so. Nevertheless, he decides to go for a drink on the way to his dream place to die, amusingly enough. With the drink detour the author buys some time and space in the narrative to stick in a little back story and human interaction in the hopes that we will care that this character is dying. To ensure sympathy, there is a dose of sentimentality, hoping to tug at the reader's heart strings.

It doesn't. I don't care. The detached sentimental and melodramatic tone of this opening bugs me. It's as if the author is relaying more on the reader's humanity to get hooked emotionally by the mere fact some random person is dying than on the writing. That's not how it works, because this is not a real person yet - figuratively or literally. It is just a fictional character in a book - words. Nobody really cares when complete strangers halfway across the world die, so why should they care when a fictional character dies in chapter 1? But it's clear the writer wants us to feel something. I won't though.

Other than this kitsch tone, the story manages to unfold with some questions, as it is clear there is a problem. Who is this guy? What is his horrible past? And most importantly, why should we care? Admittedly, that last question is not one a writer wants his readers to ask.

First thing said:

"What can I get for you?"

This is in the bar where the guy has his last drink before going to the river to drop dead of a heart attack.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht