Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Tideline - review

Tideline is a first novel, by Penny Hancock, that has quickly achieved a great reputation. I met Penny at Crimefest in May, when we were on the same panel, moderated by Peter Guttridge. What she had to say about her debut sounded interesting, and at last I've caught up with it. Suffice to say that the accolades are well-earned - this is going to be the rave review I promised yesterday!

The story-line interweaves two connected narratives. Sonia tells her story in the first person, and it soon becomes clear that she is rather disturbed, possibly as a result of a tragic incident in her past involving somone called Seb. A 15 year old boy comes to visit her in her intriguing home on the banks of the River Thames - and Sonia decides that she doesn't want to let him leave.

An alternative perspective is provided by a third person narrative featuring Helen, the aunt of the missing boy. Helen has her own problems, compounded by a taste for alcohol, and her life disintegrates as the police investigate the boy's disappearance, and suspicion grows that she may have had a hand in it.

Years ago, I talked to a literary agent about the success of Minette Walters; she attributed it to a combination of excellent plotting and excellent writing. The same can be said of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vne, and with Penny Hancock's debut, the blend of story and style is again very impressive. The setting is superbly evoked, and though the plot has some echoes of The Collector and Misery, this is not a weakness, for the author has a very different approach from that of John Fowles and  Stephen King, and the result is a very different book. I really enjoyed this one - it's the best recent debut I've read since Belinda Bauer's Blacklands.


Arabella McIntyre-Brown said...

Another one for the list. I like debut novels - all that promise, and the fun of seeing if they become another Dexter or McDermid.

Maxine Clarke said...

I have to disagree with you on this one; I could not finish it. I found the basic premise both tedious and disgusting, for a start. But, it takes all kinds of readers to enjoy all kinds of books ;-)

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Arabella, what part of the world are you in these days?

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Maxine, you are quite right, each to his own! I really did like the premise, creepy as it is, and that difference between us may help to explain our different reactions. And if I may just expand on my previous post, what I mostly had in mind as regards negative reviews were those where the reviewer makes little or no effort to understand what the author/scriptwriter etc is trying to do, or behaves unkindly or intolerantly - there's enough unpleasantness in the world, without reviewers adding to it gratuitously, as some do. But praising poor quality stuff for the sake of being constantly upbeat is not helpful and I don't advocate it. I must say that I've always found your own criticisms fair-minded and well-reasoned, and such reviews are clearly helpful to readers looking to make choices of what to read next. In the minority of cases, like this one, where my views of a book are very different, it simply bears out, as you indicate, that these things are all inevitably subjective.

Maxine Clarke said...

Thanks, Martin. All reasons why I did not review this book ;-) I sometimes point out aspects of a book I didn't like in a review, but if I hated the book, I don't review it as I don't see the point. In this particular case, I have no interest in reading about adults lusting after/obsessing over children.