“The Arctic Ocean stretched out before him into the distance, fading into a hazy white horizon. It was a daunting panorama under a cloud ceiling, swept by strong guts of wind that ranked up eddie of snow, foretelling the imminent arrival of a Russian Arctic winter storm.”
Author: Pablo Palazuelo Published: 2017 Pages: 457
This novel concerns the lives of five people: Travis, Louis, Nick, Johann, and Harry. They are old friends and retired service agents, who each have a lot of secrets and a complicated past to hide. Content to meet up once in a while to play poker and talk about old times, they are happy to live out their rest of their lives quietly. But when Louis meets a girl one night, unstoppable events seem to begin to unravel as they are pulled into a complicated and messy crime. As the unthinkable begins to happen, the men must consider whether there is more to do with the seemingly coincidental events than meets the eye? How much of their past is really coming back to haunt them? Or are they just paranoid old men?
I really enjoyed the opening scene of this novel (the quote at the beginning is taken from here) and I was also immediately intrigued by the note in the front which stated “many of the details and events included in these pages are true, or inspired by reality and actual events.” So reading the novel remembering that some of it was true made it all the more thrilling. It was evident throughout how much work the author had put in to research the book’s plot which also made it more enjoyable. The characters were well developed and each had a lot of depth to them. Their relationships too made this book plausible, especially the villains, all of them were sly and chilling, something important when writing a good thriller.
As a thriller I wanted the book to be un-put-downable, and it definitely was in places, but the last 100 pages were a bit of a drag for me. I thought that Palazuelo was a fantastic writer, knowing how to hold suspense and develop plot very successfully, but the whole thing was about 100 pages too long. I can understand why the author would want to include so much detail, but I don’t think it was entirely necessary. The plot was complicated enough, then add in the flashbacks, sub-plots and character dynamics and I needed to take a moment just to process it all.
On the other hand though, I enjoyed how clever the plot was – Palazuelo had clearly put a lot of thought into the twists and turns it would take. The dialogue was also well written; with comedy, emotion, and plausible monologues the characters came to life even more when talking to each other.
The novel overall was very well written, included intricate characters and plausible dialogue, but would have benefitted from being a little shorter. That said, I would definitely read more of Palazuelo’s work and I commend him for his ability to write such an intricate and clever thriller.
Thank you to the author, Pablo Palazuelo, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.