Novel set in pre-war London and Guernsey
Novel set in Ibiza (What Craig did next…)
7th November 2014
San Carlos by Neil Forsyth, novel set in Ibiza.
A slim book combining sleazy gangsters, the Witness Protection Scheme and the lovely White Isle of Ibiza.
Craig is working as a driver and car mechanic for Sam Albright, a gangster in Northern England. Craig, however, is picked up by the police and agrees to testify against his employer in a trial that the police are putting together to send Sam down for several years. The book opens with Craig, now living incognito and rather unhappily with his girlfriend in Peterborough, as he plans a holiday to Ibiza. He gets word, however, that Sam – from his prison cell – has put a price on his head. So, with this alarming knowledge buzzing around his consciousness, he and his girlfriend set off for their weeklong holiday. On the island they settle into their hotel at Es Cana.
Meanwhile, the second story which intertwines with the first, features Ana from Hungary, who is on a quest. Her Mother has revealed on her deathbed, some of her own personal history and identified a, now, 71 year old man, who played a significant and hugely detrimental part in the lives of many, including that of her Mother. He is apparently living on the island and it is because of him that Ana has come to the White Isle. She is determined to find him and goes to significant lengths by trawling the public records, identifying foreigners who have settled on the island. She has drawn up a list of possible contenders, and drives around the island visiting each and every one to find her quarry. In order to sustain herself, Ana not only works as a hostess on a pleasure boat ploughing to and from Formentera, but she also works the evening shift at the bar in the hotel where Craig is staying. And that is how they meet….
Ana has already caught Craig’s wandering eye, but they actually physically meet when he helps her out with her car, which has an erratic starting motor (all down to the plugs, as Craig determines). She needs the car to explore the island and tick off the names one by one on her inventory of incomers. Once Craig has got her car started, he gets in the vehicle with her and sets off with her to tour the island in search of the final names on her list, inconceivable as this may seem. Meanwhile, his girlfriend remains back at the hotel and doesn’t really make a significant appearance again (one can surmise that the relationship falters and dies, but who knows?). And what of Sam Albright’s men, do they track Craig down….?
The book is billed as a thriller. But thrilling it wasn’t for me. It was more about people in mechanical motion who don’t ultimately really have a profound sense of connection with each other. They are figures who drive the story on, rather than having a central role. Consequently they didn’t connect with me, the reader. There is all manner of information to ‘draw’ the characters and flesh them out – Craig is (surprisingly) in his early 20s (he feels as though he is in midlife, however), he doesn’t drink, he is a big hulk of a man. Ana has a history, she too is in her early 20s….but it was hard to get beyond that. And when the author writes about Craig, he describes him in the second person, so for example he might write of Craig: “You get in the car and then you…” I have never before read a book where this works and it doesn’t work as a device this time. If anything it serves to alienate the reader further and form a distance between reader and character.
Sentences in the vein of “they got the business out the way” meant I spent uncomfortable periods wanting to put the ‘of’ back in, a little word which time and again was missing. This is an irksome style (and may have worked; but there was always the niggle that the missing word might have been an oversight/typo rather than a unique writing style – typos meant that in my copy Bupapest got a mention, but clearly was meant to be the city rather than suggestive of any pesky goings-on in a health insurance company). And Ana’s story, once it is revealed, is a tired one, and not particularly plausibly handled. As for the ending? It is a “that’s it?” kind of ending. So, overall, this thriller didn’t do it for me, it was lacklustre and lost momentum at several points. However, if you like Ibiza, you will find redeeming descriptions of the island – with which it is clear the author is very familiar.
Tina for the TripFiction team
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