by Jonathan Coe
When a budding young musician finds himself the sole witness of a particularly brutal murder, he does the one thing any self-respecting, mixed up young man would do – he runs away. Fast. In a rather refreshing alternative to the more typical gung-ho amateur sleuthing that you often find in crime novels, William has no intention of trying to solve the crime, although it soon becomes clear that he is being drawn into something beyond his control.
For most of the book, William tells his own story, some of which is relevant to the potential bandmate Paisley’s untimely demise, only in that they are the events that wind up with him being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The crime itself and its aftermath are merely bookends to the real story.
As a character, William is a somewhat unlikely hero. He is indecisive, lost in his own little world. He has dreams and ambition but lacks the drive and passion needed to make them a reality. Even his relationship with girlfriend Madeline seems to be going nowhere with William unable to guide it in any meaningful way.
This is only the second Jonathan Coe book I have read so I can’t say if it is typical in approach or style, but I enjoyed the touches of humour and fascinating insight into the less glamorous side of London’s music scene.
Coe is undoubtedly a great storyteller. I can see now why my wife enjoys his books so much. The only question is why has it taken me so long to join in.
A really good and easy read.