Author – Peter May
Published – January 2015
Genre – Crime fiction
Confession time from me – this is my first Peter May book. He may be an award-winning author and have a string of successful crime books & thrillers to his name, but I’ve never picked one up before. I certainly have no regrets about reading this one and I will make an effort to out some more titles.
I have to say that Runaway wasn’t at all what I expected. Described as a ‘gripping crime novel’ I would say that the crime element was not the most prominent thread in the book. While the plot is driven by a crime, the story is more about regret and growing old, the phrase ‘youth is wasted on the young’ springs to mind.
In 1965 a group of teenage boys from Glasgow ran away from home to find fame and fortune in London. In 2015 the murder of an old man draws three of the men together and they retrace their journey back to the capital city.
I was kept guessing by a number of mysteries – who murdered the old man at the start of the book, what happened to the other members of the group, what happened between them all in London, and the author kept his cards close to his chest until the very end.
This isn’t an action packed crime story, but more a coming of age (if you can do that on a pension). It’s also quite life-affirming and moving. The story builds slowly, swapping backwards and forwards between the two timelines, as the main character, Jack, tells the story of the boys’ escapades in the sixties. Jack himself was a likeable character, it’s more his story than it is the others in the group, and he brings a sense of humour and pragmatic approach to the situations in which they find themselves.
The book has a nostalgic feel about it and despite the misfortunes of the group it did seem as if there was an element of ‘it was better in the old days’, even if that wasn’t necessarily what the author intended. In fact the story is based on May’s own experience of running away as a teen, so perhaps there’s something of an autobiographical element too.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see another point of view on Raven’s blog.