Sabine Durrant is a journalist who I knew from her work on some of the English newspapers. I hadn’t realized she wrote novels, so I took a chance on her when I spotted this in the library. It’s a kind of a thriller, though a slow burning and literary one which took me a while to read. It is told from the point of view of Paul Morris, a one-time successful author who is now down on his luck – struggling to get new work published and find a place to live. He has an apparently chance meeting with a former college friend and successful lawyer and is reacquainted with some of his former friends through invitations to dinner parties. The problem is he tries to hide his current impecunious state while hoping to inveigle himself into the lives of these former friends and specifically Alice, a young widow who he sees as someone who can provide stability in his life. He is, however, a bit of a compulsive liar with a history of treating women in a cavalier fashion. Alice, a seemingly caring soul, campaigns in the search for a missing daughter of a friend, who disappeared in Greece ten years previously. They all, Paul included, take a trip to Greece in a last attempt to find the missing girl. Under the boiling heat of the sun, events unfold in unforeseen ways with consequences for Paul and the careless life he has led until now.
This was a very rewarding piece of work from Durrant. It took the reader to some very unexpected places. Perhaps for the more seasoned thriller reader they may guess at some of the plot developments but I found it was very carefully constructed, with an almost devious cunning. The atmosphere was built up gradually until it was highly charged in the plot’s denouement. Initially I was unsure if I could relate to the upper middle-class backdrop of events – the dinner parties etc – but a universal story unfolded on the division between truth and fantasy and the consequences of our former actions. I must admit it was pretty dark if taken as a realistic picture of most people’s lives ( all the characters have purely selfish motives), but if taken mainly as an entertainment it was quite thrilling. Having said that, I think there’s enough depth to this novel to merit a second reading too.