Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Shallows, by Nigel Bird - a review

The Blurb
Lieutenant Bradley Heap has gone AWOL and taken along his wife and son. They’re managing to cope until a chance encounter with a gang of drug dealers turns their world upside down. With no money and no contacts, the Heaps are forced underground. It’s a tough path they’ve chosen, but they can cope with anything as long as they stay together as a family unit. Detective John Locke of Police Scotland joins forces with the Navy police in the search for Heap and his wife, on a trail that will take them from the middle of Scotland to the edge of the South Lakes. The Shallows explores the limits of human endurance and examines how far people will go to protect the ones they love. It is a twisting tale of tension, despair and intrigue that encapsulates the essence of hope.

The Review
The Shallows is a brilliantly modern Bonnie and Clyde thriller, with great pace and real emotion.
I came across Nigel Bird's work several years ago, in the form of his short stories. One of the best short story writers around, his short story collections Dirty Old Town (and other stories) and Beat on the Brat (and other stories) are collections I greatly enjoyed. And his novella Smoke is superb (to see my review of Smoke, click here )

The Shallows is equally, an excellent piece. It displays Bird's usual quality of prose - tight, yet always poetic - a very hard trick to pull off. I read the whole book in less than two days. In those two gripping days, I was thrust into the fast disintegrating world of Brad and Molly Heap, and their son, Shem, as they, a normal family, do everything they can to stay one step ahead of their pursuers - the Navy, the Police, a gang of drug and people smugglers, and most pernicious of all, their own conscience. These are normal people in a tough situation, through no real fault of their own, fleeing for their lives. And I was with them every step of the way.

Right to the last few pages, Bird leaves us hanging, not knowing if the family will make it. And even if they do make it, it is unclear as to their future together. Carrying all these unknowns into the final pages, leaving the reader hanging onto every word - that is great writing.

There are various subplots within the book, all handled expertly by the author. One is the Navy's pursuit of runaway submariner, Brad. The sea plays a large part within this book. There, you might think, the title of the book stems from - The Shallows - Brad's escape from the depths to the shallows. But, for me, Bird hints at something else. We all have hidden depths. All of us. Those places where the darkness consumes us, and the answers lie hidden. And it is only by going down into the darkness that the answers will reveal themselves. But sometimes, we haven't got the luxury of such a journey. Sometimes it's all about getting through the next day.We know that journey to the depths awaits, but before we go any deeper, we need to first survive the shallows.

The Shallows, as with all Nigel Bird's work, comes highly recommended, and is available from Amazon UK here and Amazon US here

No comments:

Post a Comment