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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 5 February 2018

"The Long Shadow" by Mark Mills

For a thriller, this book starts slowly. Although it is very early when Ben realises that the producer who has bought his film script is an old school friend, a billionaire, living under a new name, and this discovery intrigues the reader, there is a long while before the book develops from here. In the meantime Ben tastes a high life which he is sufficient of a connoisseur to recognise: the very best vintages of wine and whisky, the most beautiful works of art. This is the usual thriller fare of a hero who knows everything and is just masquerading as an ordinary guy. With just a day surfing the internet he is able to effortlessly negotiate the purchase of a speedboat. He is more than competent at both tennis and cricket. Plus a beautiful woman throws herself at him on first sight and another promises a more fulfilling relationship for later. Inevitably we later discover that Ben is a wonderful lover.

What redeems this book is the hero's moments of vulnerability. The moment he looks at the road beneath the wheels of his motorbike and worries about whether the engine will seize up and fling him off. There is a beautiful depiction of his relationship with his son, who lives with his mother, the hero's divorced wife. When Mills is writing about the hero's relationship with his son, or with his ex-wife, there are moments of tenderness and reality. This was entrancing writing which deserved to be in the foreground, rather than serving a slightly unconvincing plot.

Even when this plot gets going it burns slowly. Ben is drawn into the world of the super-rich. There are hints that all is not as it seems. The main story is interspersed with flashbacks to the two boys at a rather feral prep school; these also suggest that the apparent friendliness of 'Victor' (ex-Jacob) might have ulterior motives. But development of these ideas is left very late and the denouement, when it arrives, is rushed. In the end I didn't believe that Victor, with all he had to lose, should seek out Ben.

But there were some great lines:

  • "the creeping caution that comes with age, the same anxiety that had rendered his parents all but housebound." (p 22)
  • "When you boil it back to the bones, what else is there? ... Just death, and the foolish hope we can somehow cheat it."(p 54)
  • "Ben knew he had spoken - he had felt his jaw move - but it was as if the word had been uttered by another." (p 99)
  • "Plato was right when he said an old man may become twice a child, but I don't see there's any earthly reason why he shouldn't be a good child - polite, intelligent, considerate." (p 352)


Overall a good read but the wonderful human interest story was inappropriately shackled to the shallow thriller format. February 2018; 453 pages


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