Accidental deaths in war and at home engender terrible lies and guilt in this highly original, engrossing literary thriller.
Michael, a writer, and TV journalist Caroline are in their 30s when they meet, marry, and move to Wales in a love story that is a marvel of freshness and compression—and a delayed subplot in this skillful novel. Welshman Sheers (Resistance, 2008, etc.), also a poet and playwright, actually begins with the recently widowed Michael slowly moving through the next-door home of his new friends in London, where he has moved after his wife is accidentally killed in a Pakistan drone attack. Her death, however, is not “the event that changed all of their lives,” an event that is heralded on the first page but then withheld for almost half the book as Michael’s search for a borrowed screwdriver becomes an eerily suspenseful exploration of the house. It is constantly interrupted by sections of flashback and ends with another terrible accident. Tension surges again in police and amateur detective work, or in the psychological agony of living with a terrible truth. With smooth shifts of time and place, the author navigates love and friendship, more than one life lost, more than one knot of lies, more than one family shattered. Parallels abound; almost every character seems to have some kind of double in worlds as disparate as Wall Street, war, and publishing. Some key behavior seems questionable, and Michael’s glacially slow search next door risks becoming tedious.
But these are small faults in the face of such a large talent as Sheers, a resourceful writer with a sharp eye for both the big picture and the lovely detail, such as “tiny women lost in monstrous SUVs, their painted nails clutching the steering wheels like the feet of caged birds.”