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  • review by Paul Burston

Good Samaritans

Will Carver has a very dark mind. His latest novel is about a group of sad, lonely, damaged characters whose lives converge in ways that have you squirming with unease or holding your breath in the hope that something really bad isn’t about to happen.

There's Seth, who’s unhappily married, hates his job, suffers from acute insomnia and stays up late at night talking to strangers on the phone. There’s his wife Maeve, who falls asleep on the sofa most nights watching reality TV and slams the front door when she leaves for work in the morning, just to piss her husband off. There’s Hadley, who’s sexually compulsive, suicidal and ends up talking on the phone to Seth thinking she’s called The Samaritans. There’s Ant, who’s obsessed with cleanliness, prone to angry outbursts and something of a voyeur. And there’s Detective Sergeant Pace, who’s investigating the murders of three women whose bodies have been found wrapped in plastic and bleached beyond recognition.

Did I mention that this was dark? But it’s also shot through with a sardonic sense of humour. There’s a stark economy to Carver's writing and an understanding of human weakness that sheds light in even the darkest corners. Chapters are short and sharp as we move from one character to the next and back again. The tension builds quickly and doesn’t let up. Bad things happen, some anticipated, others so unexpected you find yourself reeling and hastily rereading just to make sure you didn’t miss something. It’s a dizzying display of authorial control.

By the time I was halfway though this book, I felt just as discombobulated as sleep-deprived Seth himself. By the time I reached the end, I was breathless with admiration and wondering if I’d ever sleep again. This a truly compulsive read – daring, dark, deliciously twisty and totally original.

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