This self-assured first novel is a psychological thriller centred around a film critic called Dorian Cook. The book fluctuates between 12-year-old Dorian in the steamy days of 1976 and present-day disillusioned failing film-critic Dorian. Into his current miserable life a threat from the past slowly wrecks havoc on his life and on the lives of his childhood friends.
In this tightly constructed novel, the story simmers throughout, the tension tangible but not glaringly obvious at the start. This slow-burner effect is highly effective for the most part, especially when serious plot twists are revealed with disarming execution. If you are looking for a constant fast-paced book this might not be for you as Andrew Lowe takes time to create detailed characters and settings.
The summer of 1976 is brilliantly captured and as a young child in the 70s I could easily relate to the mood and atmosphere of the time. Likewise the brooding cynicism of current day film journalism seems utterly plausible and this should come as no surprise as some of the settings and situations are, according to the writer, semi-autobiographical.
The main character Dorian Cook is a flawed and unsympathetic character and even when he is a child I could feel nothing but disdain for him and his friends who are portrayed in equally uncompromising terms. Having said that they are well written, sketched in fine detail through ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’ and as the book progressed I became accustomed not to having to support or identify with any one specific character in the book.
The one aspect of the book that I struggled with to start with was its slow pace and progression of the story, however I quickly understood that this was deliberate and central element to the novel. In the midst of the ordinary, the extraordinarily unnervingly unfolds, with the horrific quietly introduced in between the banality of life. On numerous occasions this would cause me to stop and reread a paragraph to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood exactly what was happening. At times I felt myself bordering on confusion before I was pulled onto the road of shocked comprehension.
I cannot say too much about the story line of the book as this would easily reveal too much, however the boys as young play a prank on a fellow school pupil, I hesitate to use the word friend. A prank that goes wrong and now reconnects the three friends as the consequences of that day return to haunt them.
‘The Ghost’ is an unusual book, not your run by the mill thriller and not at all what I expected. It’s very well-written and it delivers on character, setting and plot, with the tension mounting incrementally. Every time I went to put the book aside I felt that ‘just one more chapter’ tug.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Publish Date: 28th June 2015 – ie. now available!
Paperback Price: £ 9.99 (amazon quoted prices)
Kindle Price: £ 1.99 (amazon quoted prices)
‘We need a full inner well to write from. Sometimes life empties the well. That’s not failure, or the end. It’s a promise that there will be something new to write about when the well is refilled.’
by Rachel Mack
Painting Courtesy of M. Ivarson
13 thoughts on “THE GHOST: A review of Andrew Lowe’s debut novel.”
Great review Annika, very enticing, maybe one for me to check out at sometime. Thanks for drawing to my attention. 🙂
Thanks Marje, glad you liked the review and if you read the book I would love to hear your opinion. Enticing is just the right word for it!
Will bear it in mind, Annika. So many books never enough time ….. !!
This is a very interesting review of this book and it’s got me hooked. I grew up in the seventies and feel that I should read this book as it appears to conjour up that period well. I have already bought a book as a result of one of your previous reviews and it was spot on. Keep up the good work.
It won’t disappoint and am sure you will recognise those days well. Enjoy the book and let me know what you think!
My reading list keeps getting longer! It sounds as though it will be well worth the reading, but there are several in the queue already.
I think you’d really like this Peter so glad it’s on your list. I know the feeling though as I have lists of so many books I want to read – just never enough hours in the day!
Hi, Annika. Thank you so much for your fair and honest review.
I tried to make the story develop as a gradually tightening grip, and I’m pleased that you enjoyed that aspect – and also had the patience to be carried by a character who isn’t exactly lovable.
Thanks for taking the time to craft such a thorough review. It’s hugely appreciated.
Great to hear from you and thank you for your comment, it’s very much appreciated. I saw your book (and its cover) featured in this months ‘Writing Magazine’, very impressive. Good luck with the book and I look froward to reading your next one. With warmest wishes.
Well written review, Annika. You covered everything I’d need for a go-nogo decision. I tend to read upbeat stories, flawed-but-likable characters, with a positive outcome (Pollyanna mixed with noir).
Thank you Jacqui. It was in some ways a difficult book to review, as not quite what I had expected and I did struggle with not being able to emphathise with the characters. Still clever plot twists. I think the next review book should be more up your street (fingers crossed!). As you say the main point is to get the book across well so potential readers can assess it beforehand.
Thank you Mirja and I would happily review yours or others books! This book was an unusual one for me to read but I was intrigued by the outline and wanted to know more. Glad I did. I came across the quote a few weeks back and it expressed exactly what I felt at that time and it quietly calmed me and gave me permission to rest for a while, letting my well fill again.
Another superb review Annika. If I ever write a book I will make a note ( in a notebook of course ) to ask for you as reviewer.
I understand from you that the book explores some very dark sides to the charachters and agree that it must be difficult not to feel strong sympathy with at least one of them.
You got me intrigued although it doesn’t sound like an evening read for me.:)
The quote is so true and goes for all creative activities. Let us give time for the vessel to fill.