Where Would I Be Without You?

Where Would I Be Without You?In a bookshop, I would never have picked up this novel based on the jacket. Far too girly for my tastes. As you can see by the blurb, it promises to be more — and the review quotes say it’s a thriller-plus-love story.

It starts with Martin and Gabrielle, two young adults who fall in love and have a passionate, if brief, affair in San Francisco. Martin has to go home to France and like most long-distance relationships, it doesn’t work out (by page two, we ominously hear that it is his ‘last serious love affair’). Cut to 13 years later and Martin is now a police captain, working on cultural crime. He’s been tracking an ingenious art thief, Archibald McLean, who’s managed to elude capture for 25 years. He believes he knows where McLean will strike next, and what he decides to do with that information sends him on a crazy journey through Paris and back to San Francisco (what a coincidence).

Let’s start with the good things. This is definitely a read to be indulged by the pool / beach / holiday chalet patio; it’s light (I finished it in under four hours), but not so light you feel your brain shutting down in boredom. There’s just enough intrigue to keep you going.

But. The dialogue was quite stilted — perhaps that’s a function of the translation, which is something I accept. I can live with that. What I couldn’t abide by was the deus ex machina-type thing near the end. Maybe that was the part the author thought of first and built a novel around it, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t have the imagination to deal with paranormal plotlines beyond shit-yourself-scary, but it felt lazy to include something conveniently surreal that gave everyone a happy (of sorts) ending. I know JK Rowling did that ridiculous scene in Deathly Hallows and she sells bajillions of books, but that was the weakest part of what I considered a great series of fantasy novels a child could grow up with.

I had a couple of niggles about the timeline as well. Were people really extra crazy about Kurt Cobain a year after he died (the novel opens in 1995, and this is apparently when people were particularly obsessed the deceased singer), and was the diner he entered set up as 60s nostalgia if it had posters of James Dean on the wall?

So it lost a point for the ‘paranormal’ part that conveniently tied up the loose ends in the plot, although I gave it a pass for its weird timeline.

This uncorrected advance proof was received as part of the Real Readers programme.