WHO IS TRIUMPHANT - AND WHAT IS THE PRICE?
This is a powerful and powerfully confronting novel. The reader is drawn in from the first chapter when a strong tri-dimensional picture is painted of Bruno, his psychological problems and his obsession with Katherine. You just KNOW something terrible and shocking is going to happen to this innocent teenage girl and the unsuspecting family.
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Good flashback sequences filling in JM and Barbara’s studies to become a dentist and a psychiatrist, their romance, marriage and success, Mrs. K as part of the ‘family’ and then the birth of their daughter, Katherine.
Move forward to present day – Katherine is in her mid teens, a talented violinist and artist. A happy, healthy young girl with all the good things of life on the plate before her, but the deranged, obsessive Bruno is about to snatch the plate from her grasp, smash it and proceed to carve up her body and mind with the broken shards.
I have a fascination with what I refer to as ‘The Fork in the Road Syndrome’, and Bruno encapsulates the Fork in the Road for the Harris family. To me, with over 5,000 books read, probably 60% fiction, the best books are the ones that unfold in a logical sequence with credible tri-dimensional characters you love or love to hate. The best plot twists emerge as a natural outgrowth of events, of stimulus – response, and just because the character appears to be a major player does not mean they will survive to see the sun rise on the last chapter. Congratulations to Mr. Ling for capturing all of these elements in this shocking, dramatic, yet credible novel.
After Bruno’s vicious, deranged attack the reader has no idea where the story will turn, and what is around the next turn in the road. You will not be disappointed. On reflection you think, that wouldn’t have occurred to me, but given the events and the characters driving them, it makes perfect sense. I really like the fact that because of his history of violence, of being the victim, the court orders Bruno to undergo psychiatric assessment. Barbara takes it on as a pro bono case, and from there their fate is sealed.
I could not help but be reminded of some of Patricia Highsmith’s great books, or elements that are common to all her work: novels that are peopled with ordinary and less than heroic characters, villains who are major characters, and good people who fall foul of villainy.
The ending, literally the last few paragraphs, was excellent, and definitely emerged from the shadows of Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.
Lastly the title. This is a great title! The title is the first thing that we, the reader, sees, and the writer’s best opportunity to create a strong first impression. I love titles that are symbolic, are drawn from, or are quotes from the Bible, Shakespeare or noted poets; titles that suggest the pleasure, satisfaction and reward that awaits the reader. For example, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, GONE WITH THE WIND, EAST OF EDEN, PLOUGH THE SEA, HOME FROM THE HILL, A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT, and my own novel, THE PRICE TO PAY.
There are parts of this book that I would have developed or written differently, but that is ever the case, and is completely subjective. Each of us writers bring to the page a vision of the story we want to tell, but this is informed, shaped and moulded by who we are and where we have come from; of the forces that have moulded us and the journey we have travelled. Full marks to Mr. Ling for extracting the fragments from his journey and prodigious imagination the components of which he then used to form this powerful, disturbing and ultimately rewarding novel. A big 'Thank You' to the author, keep right on writing. Eric.