In Woods’ debut novel, two men struggle to find financial success in 1960s England.
Garry and Jim encountered different fates after losing their parents. Garry was adopted by a wealthy couple, the Osbornes, and raised as their own son, learning the truth about his origins only after their deaths. Jim grows up in an orphanage, which is also a farm, and winds up living as a bit of a wild man, close to nature in an abandoned hunting lodge, while Garry is on his way to becoming a rich business owner. Jim begins a romance with Angela, who happens to be Garry’s sister, and he dramatically intervenes in an attack on the Osbornes that leaves her parents dead and Angela in a coma. Though the police clear Jim of the killing of the Osbornes, Garry isn’t convinced. His hatred of Jim flares when he learns that Jim had a relationship with his sister. Garry grows even angrier with Jim when he discovers a secret that ties them closer than he ever imagined. The focus toggles between the two men. Garry’s obsession with getting revenge leads him to drink excessively and mismanage his companies. Meanwhile, Jim’s star continues to ascend as he becomes a savvy real estate developer. The novel starts slowly but picks up speed after the tragic night at the Osbornes. Sometimes the novel has a Horatio Alger feel as Jim’s hard work and ingenuity pay off. At other times, however, Jim’s almost superhuman ability to rise above challenges seems cartoonish, as when he nabs a corrupt police officer. Jim and Angela’s powerful romance drives the storyline, even when the pair has not seen each other in years. The ending feels rushed and unsatisfying with the introduction of a new twist.
Complex characters and a few unexpected turns make for an engaging, if uneven, tale.