For the last half an hour I have been sitting here, thinking of a proper way to start off this review. I waited for my emotions to settle after that last chapter and still I feel them creeping up on me as I write this. The journey this novel has taken me on was more than exhilarating. It was breathtaking. I have been a huge fan of mystery novels and crime dramas. They were my third literary love (right next to fantasy and horror) and they were a genre I treated with respect, due to the hard work that authors must have when writing them. In my opinion, they are the most difficult genre to write. To see one written so expertly and topped off with a human touch really makes me stare at it in awe. I saw that one commenter wrote that he felt guilty for reading this for free. I think I am feeling slightly guilty myself after finishing this. However, more on that later.
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In these reviews, I tend to deconstruct the work to showcase all the things I liked and disliked in order to show the author all of my thoughts about the piece. I will do so here, though I already feel that this will be quite the lengthy review. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let's not waste any more time and let us venture forth.
One of the few things I really like to criticize in my reviews is the usage of grammar. Every work I have read seems to have some grammar mistakes that do become grating enough for me to remove a star (my work is not an exception to this). However, what mistakes I did find, I quickly forgot as the story engrossed me fully. There were some misspells by they were soo few and far in between that it wouldn't be worth even removing half a star for. I would suggest a quick read through to straighten them out.
The language you used in this novel seemed very easy to understand. You were not over verbose, quite the opposite actually. Your style was very down to right and even a bit cheeky in some parts. Given the narrator, the style fits splendidly well and it really brought a sense of realism to the story. It felt like I was reading private memoirs that Phil kept.
As someone who has a slight aversion to first person POV stories, I was slightly hesitant when I saw that you used it as well. I have noticed that first person POV seems to be a somewhat preferred style of writing here (or maybe it's just the stories I have read that make it seem so). It's not an easy style to pull off and many do seem to stumble with it, so it always makes me precautious when I read a story that utilizes it.
Your story, on the other hand, makes the POV integral to it. Third person (even if it were limited) would not be good enough for this type of story. Phil's emotions, charm, and quips would be quite lost on us if it were written in any different way. I love how we get to experience this exciting tale through his eyes and we feel every moment as he does. We have a permanent residence within his mind and it draws the reader in as if he were a Yithian possessing Phil's body while his mind was still there. It's not an easy thing to pull, but you managed to outdo every single one of my expectation by the time chapter two ended.
The literary devices on display here were great. The most predominant ones that I saw were: symbolism, Chekov's gun, and similies. I will leave symbolism for the last part since it will lead to my next part of the review.
The similies Phil has really help to bring this book to life and show off his quick wit. There were a lot of ones that had to do with spaceships and spacecrafts which, for a realistic story like this one, really made me laugh. Others helped to accentuate Tyrone's horror and helped to really set the tone for the story. It was enjoyable to see what Phil would come up with next to describe Manny or Mackie or any other character and I have to give credit to you on that front.
The usage of Chekov's gun in this work was unbelievable to the point that around chapter 9 I had to stop and write this down:
"The usage of Chekov’s gun in this story is
simply marvelous. The number of callbacks and tie-ins is rather large and it
rewards avid readers and even encourages a reread just to see if you can spot
them all. One of my favorite jokes was when Phil was talking about how rich Tina was and he says “for fuck sake- her parents bought her a pool for her birthday” and right on cue in chapter 9 we see that party take place. Seriously, I would suggest that people take notes when writing callbacks because this was pretty clever. You never know what’s going to be important in the story so you better keep your eyes peeled and you better memorize as much as you can when reading this because chances are it’s going to come back."
I still don't think I did it justice because there are even bigger scenes that come into play and all the puzzle pieces come along. The smoking gun was always there, we just needed to look a bit harder. I think that if someone were to reread this they would be slapping themselves silly with all the clues this work used to convey its message. That is a sign of a great mystery novel right there. The mention of Hercules Poirot also served as somewhat of a hint since in Agatha Christie's stories the reader is capable of resolving the mystery as they read them if they look hard enough.
And finally, the use of symbolism in this work was spectacular. The ripples that repeat themselves were quite powerful and we see how far their waves truly reach. The title itself is one great symbol for the whole work as one can see it as they read on.
From this point on I will be using spoilers for the story. There are some things I want to discuss and if anyone is reading this review before reading the story itself, I would suggest they stop at this point. Because the first impressions hit the hardest in a work like this. Now let's discuss the plot of this work.
The plot is surprisingly complex and yet very easy to follow. You may not understand the full scope of the whole situation, at first, but as it goes it starts to fall in place and you are left with your mouth wide open by the end of the ride.
The story is separated into two segments and two mysteries. These segments I like to call: the kid segments and the JAYDEE segments. The kid segments are highly important to the story as they provide us with context to it all.
Stevie's death, which occurs in the kid segments, and its true cause are hidden from us at first. They are the stone tossed into the lives of these characters. They, alongside with some other events in the past, are the progenitors of the ripples that travel throughout their past and come crashing down on the shores of today. Tyrone's evil is also explored here and his revenge represents the waves that are catching up to Phil, Wayne, and Tine. It befits his nature which I will explore later.
As far as the main mystery goes, it is amazingly interesting. As the story goes on more and more parties are introduced and it just becomes a larger and larger deal reach the ex-mayor, councilor and the incompetent MP. The deeper it goes, the more danger arises from it and Phil is caught in the middle of it all. Just because he got caught up in Tyrone's sick game. Truly bone-chilling.
Speaking of all these characters, let's discuss the brilliant characterization that you have going on here. I wanted to shorten my list as much as I could (as I wanted to originally give every character a paragraph) so I will focus on seven characters so far (starting from the ones I have the least to say about to the ones I have the most): Simon, Slattery, Erin, Alasdair, Tina, Phil, Tyrone and Wayne.
Simon Walsh is a very interesting character that has my feelings split. He is a terrific rival to Phil in every single way and, as much as I don't like sensationalists, he does possess a certain courage that Phil simply lacks. This courage leads to him ending in a body cast, but even then he does not let up. And any man that has so much passion has at least some respect from me. He is arrogant and a sleaze, but man is he tenacious as well. He very well deserves his position and SOME of his arrogance.
DI Slattery is one of those characters that has done a double flip in my eyes. The way he was introduced, his love of greasy food and easy women, really made me slightly cautious of him. His suspicion of Wayne was founded though, and even back then he showed some signs of his ultimate moment of redemption. his germophobic nature made me laugh and his tender moments made me believe that he was not such a bad guy after all. His meeting with Mackie proved to me that this was a man to be feared and revered. Slattery is something every detective can only dream of being and he has earned my respect. I could go on and on about him as I truly grew to enjoy his intellect, his cynicism and his harsh delivery of truth. All six that I have mentioned before are characters that have impressed me in one way or another, but Slattery has blown me away.
Erin was a character that I too fell in love with at first. She seemed to be kind, curious, and generally a wonderful shining beacon in Phil's light. After his disappointment with Tina, I truly hoped he would have hit it off with Erin and that I would be witnessed to a double wedding by the end of the book. Unfortunately, that is a fairy tale ending and this is not a fairy tale after all. Her motives were ultimately good, but we do not live in Machiavellian times where the ends can justify ANY means. Playing with Phil and with Simon like that was a rotten way and I could completely understand Phil's rage with her. Her father was a blind fool that let all this chaos happen. Sure, he wasn't evil, but you know what they say: all it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing. Her character as a whole was wonderful and wonderfully dubious to read about. Flawed human beings are my favorite after all.
Alasdair Riley was an interesting character that also invoked quite a bit of sympathy from me. He was also a good character for social commentary, representing a consumeristic lifestyle that wishes to portray themselves as the best, even if it means that they have to sign their souls over to the Devil (or Tyrone in this case. Same difference). His stupidity and extensive greed remind me of a couple of characters I saw in a show I am currently watching. These people were nobles under an old rule, but the new King chased them out of said position because he saw them as useless. Even impoverished they kept buying things to show off their nobility which only served to drive them deeper into depth and lead their daughter to Death's door as she tried to save her sisters from that fate (unfortunately that story did not have a happy ending). He has the same mentality as they do, though he comes off as much more human then these guys ever did.
Now onto the main trio, and who better to start off then Tina.
Tina was a very welcomed ray of sunlight in this novel. The way she behaved in her childhood indicated a very strong person with a strong moral compass. You really can't pull the wool over her eyes as she seems like the type of a girl that can easily peer into the hearts of anyone that surrounds her and see if they are a friend or a foe. She has also proven herself to be quite strong as well, remaining brave even when Tyrone stared down at her. Her loyalty to her friends is also very well expressed in her past as she stood by Wayne's side no matter what happened. She was his rock and not even Tyrone made her waver. She truly was made for Wayne as much as he too was made for her. Quite the uncanny couple, yet they make so much sense.
Phil was an interesting narrator. I loved the arc he took in the novel and how he slowly became braver and braver as the story progressed. He became a stronger character with the same level of sharp wit and funny quips that he always had. He was a blast and a half to follow and his thoughts provided a great insight into the whole situation.
Tyrone was a perfect villain for this piece of literary brilliance. A total psychopath, a criminal mastermind, and a horror that truly feared no man. Much like a tsunami, he was a destructive, malevolent, force that left nothing but destruction and misery in its path. Unlike a tsunami, he relished this misery and destruction. He drew excitement from the daily torment he inflicted upon Wayne and he was utterly amoral as a human life was worthless to him. He even tried to mess with the shady Mackie, which ultimately led to his demise. He was bound to crash eventually and I suppose he couldn't have found a better shore to wash upon.
And now, for my personal favorite character in this entire novel, Wayne. Wayne was something I did not expect to see. He was a man followed by misfortunate. Misfortune by being born in the worst house on their street. Misfortune to have a tormentor like Tyrone as his brother. And misfortune of losing his best friend at such a young age. This misfortune leads him on a dark path which even followed him into his adult life. And behind all that misfortune, behind all those shady things he did, lied a truly noble and loving heart capable of caring and protecting his friends. As annoying as he could be, Wayne had such a laid-back facade to him and such a wonderful heart behind it all. A heart that only wanted to stay home, watch rugby with his friends and be happy with the girl of his dreams. Tyrone's evil followed him like a shadow and he never truly escaped it until the very end of this novel. He was a character I was rooting for the most and I am happy o see that his bad luck had come to an end. He earned the trust of Thomas Oldfield as well as the love of his life Tina. It made me really happy to see that.
And with that, my review has come to a close. I mentioned in one of my comments that I feel slightly empty to finish this. Perhaps that was not the right word to use. It's more a feeling of melancholy, a certain happiness mixed in with a hint of sadness that it truly is all over now. I feel like I have just watched a great movie and that a lot of other things will pale in comparison. I truly believe that this deserves to be in the bookshelves today and I believe that a lot of authors can learn so much from this work. Lord knows I have learned quite a lot.
I thank you for providing me with this amazing experience, Barry. It was truly an exhilarating journey and I wish you all the luck with your career. I truly hope to see this work in my bookstores one day. Keep it up and never stop! You have a wonderful gift here.