Author – Tom Vowler
Published – 13 March 2014
Genre – Literary crime (apparently!)
Following hot on the heels of my review of Vowler’s debut novel “What Lies Within” his second novel is certainly the most engrossing and intriguing book I have read recently. Unfortunately, like its predecessor, it is also a book that’s told in a way that by attempting to review it you risk spoiling the discovery for other readers.
It’s autumn 2012 and Stephen seems to have everything – he’s married with a young daughter, he has a job he enjoys, but an out of character act may have put all of this in jeopardy. When he receives an unexpected phone call suggesting that his mother may be unwell circumstances prompt him to return to the town he last saw as a teenager. It is obvious that some terrible event occurred in the past and that somehow Stephen was involved (this is ‘That Dark Remembered Day’) but Vowler, as with What Lies Within, draws the reader into the story giving only a fragment away at a time.
Towards the middle of the book the focus shifts back to the summer of 1982 and you begin to understand more about the events which have led to Stephen’s current problems and the reason that he has been so reluctant to return home. Whilst much of the story in the present concerns his realisation that he isn’t as well adjusted as perhaps he thought, the scenes set in the past, adding other points of view, give the reader a better insight into the events. Like watching a car crash in slow motion you have an idea of what is coming but all you can do is watch it unfold. There is an underlying tension that permeates the book and a sense of dread as it becomes clear what must have taken place. Vowler also manages to add some details that really take you by surprise. It’s a dark and harrowing story which is all too believable.
I can see similarities between this title and Vowler’s debut – both make great use of the locations in which they’re set, especially the natural landscape. Both also rely on keeping the reader in suspense in a much more subtle way than a conventional crime novel. In fact, in both cases, they aren’t conventional crime novels at all. I was reminded of stories like Rupture and Black Chalk, which both used a similar technique of focusing on the aftermath of a catastrophic event and then telling the sequence of events leading up to it.
Last but not least I should mention Vowler’s writing style – which is superb and really brought the characters to life.
Thank you to Headline for my review copy. You can see another point of view at Cleopatra Loves Books.