'The Reckless Engineer' really isn't the kind of book I would usually read. Actually if I saw it on the shelf in a book shop I'd probably take one look at the title and, shamefully, completely disregard it. So it was actually quite lucky that a few weeks ago Jac Wright emailed me asking me to read and review his book before it's published in a couple of months. At a time when I need to force myself to read books from different genres this was perfect...
I guess I would describe this book as a modern combination of Dickens and maybe Poirot. Actually I want to say Miss Marple because Jeremy, the protagonist, is something like an amateur detective, a bit like Marple, except he's not in his 70s... and he doesn't carry knitting. Hmmm, maybe just think Agatha Christie-type crime, detective novel with Dickensian descriptions... Anyway. It was so, so much better than I was expecting it to be, and I might even be a new convert to detective, suspense-type novels.
The story follows engineer Jeremy Stone as his best friend, Jack, is accused of the murder of his lover Michelle (or as I and many of the characters affectionately liked to refer to her: 'the bitch'). Jeremy spends his time trying to clear Jack's name whilst the high-profile case is continuously hounded by the press, and other suspects all hinder his process while trying to save themselves. Along the way there are plenty of twists and turns and at one point there were about 9 suspects, all with plausible motives, virtually no alibis, and each equally threatening in their own right; basically you have not a clue who committed the crime until very few pages before the end.
I loved that there was actual description throughout, something which is all too often lost in contemporary novels in lieu of supposedly fast-paced plots. In this book the reader is treated to both. Although this doesn't mean that there weren't things that did annoy me at times; for example there was very little description of male characters compared to females. At the end of the novel I still had no idea what the main character looked like, while pretty much every female character had been extensively described as 'sexy' or something similar, having at least a paragraph of description each. Not that that's a bad thing, but when the male protagonist wasn't described at all I became a little desperate for a male jaw here and there... (Basically the feminist in me got angry, ugh). And if Jeremy, the protagonist, is supposed to look something like Scott Eastwood, and another character like Richard Armitage, as the author has suggested, then I can't really understand why you wouldn't want to describe them. Seriously, look at his beautiful face...
This led me to think that the book is more targeted towards a male audience, although females can clearly still enjoy it. It's the kind of book I might give to by Dad or brother for Christmas in the hope that they may actually read something - it's definitely a novel I can imagine someone becoming so engrossed in they can't put it down until they finally discover 'who dunnit'. And the ending completely took me by surprise which made me so happy. Like in a Sherlock Holmes novel the answers had gone unnoticed while subtly being there all along, and so when the killer was revealed I was left open-mouthed and completely shocked. This made me so happy since it happens so rarely. So, just, yay!
There were plenty of characters I didn't like and if Michelle hadn't been murdered at the outset I might have had to kill her myself (I'm not quite sure how that would work, but just go with it..). I saw Jack, the accused, as a dirty cheater for most of the book, although he does become more sympathetic later; and most of the suspects were of the threatening thug type you seem to find in fiction and luckily never in real life (or maybe I just live a seriously secluded life while everyone else is running around shooting each other, who knows..). But as Wuthering Heights has proved, unlikeable characters do not make for a bad book, and in cases such as this I think they actually add to the enjoyment of the book as you begin to hope that maybe somehow they'll all be arrested.
I would really recommend this book for anyone who wants to expand the genres they are reading, any men, and anybody who loves crime novels. It was also great to see the influence of Dickens throughout the book with heavier scenes interspersed with some light humour - a drunken phone call between Jeremy and his lawyer friend particularly springs to mind here - not to mention some great description throughout. So, yes, I was pleasantly surprised by this book and now I'm going to go and order J.K. Rowling's 'The Cukoo's Calling' since I think this book might have triggered a detective and crime novel fetish I had no idea I had. 7/10.
Have a Happy Saturday!