Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

"The Siren" by Alison Bruce (Constable and Robinson, 2010)


I thought this novel began much better than her previous one, Cambridge Blue, did. It continues temptingly too. I like the pacing and the context-changes. I especially like how the tension is built up on p.126. Goodhew through a telescope sees, as if split-screen, 2 scenes develop and collide. And the novel's final paragraph is good.

There are sentences that are worth reading in themselves -

  • "And if marriage carried kudos, so did age: in some cases a mark of achievement and in others a measure of loss" (p.2)
  • "Perhaps that was all hindsight really was: the chance to see clearly what was originally clouded by the emotion of the moment, rather than anything to do with the passage of time" (p.48)


There's less breath-drawing than her previous book, but it persists - "Rachel drew a deep breath" (p.13); "Kimberley drew a long breath" (p.31); "She drew a deep and calming breath" (p.227)

There's still some awkward phrasing -

  • "He wanted to keep walking - past the police station and on to wherever Stefan was hiding, there to find Riley and bring him home. He recognised a metaphor as he thought one" (p.81)
  • "Sue Gully loved to drive and, while she couldn't fathom Goodhew's apparent lack of interest in getting behind the wheel, it suited her far more than being the one in the passenger seat" (p.241)


I thought that in the end the child would be ransomed by someone who knew who had taken the 300,000 euros. The final explanations didn't quite convince me, but there was so much going on by then that it didn't matter. There were earlier problems for me, more with character than plot.

  • Kimberley doesn't (try to) show emotion when told that Rachel's dead.
  • I'm surprized that Kimberly disqualifies herself from motherhood.
  • Kimberley's distrust of authority is told rather than shown -
    • "She'd immediately picked up on Kimberley's discomfort whenever around the police, and Gully's instincts told her this extended to all kinds of authority figures - including those who pushed bureaucracy, or anyone who colluded with them" (p.55)
    • "She looked at him and he suddenly wondered if this was the first time she's made proper eye contact with anyone, not masked with fear of grief, or blinkered by her obvious disdain for authority" (p.64; Marks' PoV)
  • I'm surprized that on p.135 Goodhew didn't try to set the matter straight. I guess he doesn't always do what's best for himself.
  • On p.221, Gully phones an unknown number - "On the fifth ring it was answered. 'Hello?'/It was Anita McVey's voice". I'm impressed that Gully was able to immediately recognise the voice. Were the answer 'Hello. Anita McVey speaking' that implausibility would disappear.
  • Some of the development depends on us accepting that the injury has to be inflicted by strong kicks rather than a heavy implement. I wasn't convinced.
  • The plane on p.285 seems odd - a lot of effort for an unconvincing alibi.

Puzzles and surprizes

  • "the owner, a forty-five-year-old man with a quiff and a London accent, introduced himself as Raj" (p.93). Who knows his age? Who cares anyway?
  • On p.134 it says "Goodhew had no idea about playing chess". I though in the previous book he knew more.


On p.122-3 there's a rapid successions of different PoVs. Works ok. On p.216 and p.250 we suddenly get new PoVs when new characters appear. Again, it works.

On p.173 "run-thorugh" is a typo.

Other reviews

  • Maxime Clarke (Eurocrime) (Matters become quite dramatic at the end of the novel, but although exciting, the rationale and actions of the criminal do not seem that credible to me ... Goodhew is a character in whom it is a bit hard to believe ... The author has not got the balance quite right yet between the procedural aspects and the personal problems of the police)
  • Mysterious reviews
  • Sarah Hilary (Multiple points of view are handled with real skill by the author ... Bruce has a talent for drawing characters to life in just a few sentences ... Most impressively, Bruce ensures that every character has a moral core, whether decent or rotten)

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