Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

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Book #40: The Night Book by Richard Madeley

Number of pages: 455

Set in 1976, this book opens with a woman drowning while swimming in England's Lake District; it transpires that there have been a large number of drownings in the area during this particular summer.

However, this plot element really just sets up the story and becomes relevant later on, as the main story focuses on the character Meriel, and agony aunt who is married to the vile and abusive Cameron, though she is clearly having an affair with a younger man, Seb.

Meriel very obviously hates Cameron, who she is trapped in a loveless marriage with, and takes her anger out using her "night book", in which she fantasises about killing Cameron in brutal ways.

The book takes a big turning point shortly before the halfway point that changes the direction of the narrative completely...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

After Meriel deliberately throws Cameron's watch into a lake and he dives in to get it, he drowns, becoming the latest in the series of deaths that has taken place. The rest of the story revolves around the aftermath of this, and it seems inevitable that Cameron will go to jail for this, especially following the discovery of the night book, which convinces the authorities that it must have all been premeditated.

The book does at least end up with some moral commentary, with characters debating on whether Meriel should be punished, or whether Cameron deserved what he got because he was so obnoxious.

I thought the book started off quite well, with the 1976 setting coming across through mostly discussions of the political situation; Cameron is obviously a dislikeable character, though I wasn't sure what I was expected to think of Meriel and Seb. The book seemed to be a strange mixture of thriller and erotica.

While the book does have a plot that resembles something Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud of, the narrative did seem to run out of steam towards the end. I could tell exactly where the book was headed, and the final third was just about characters trying to figure out what the reader already knew, so it did feel a bit too long-winded, especially when the book effectively replayed what happened in old scenes, just for the benefit of anyone who had forgotten.

Overall, not a great book, but I also found it very easy to read, and a lot of the dialogue was enjoyable enough for me to keep reading.

Next book: The Trigger (Tim Butcher)
Tags: book review, british, contemporary, erotica, fiction, love, modern lit, period fiction (20th century), richard and judy/channel 4 book club, sexual violence, suspense, thriller

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