Judith Cutler is the author of many short stories and some thirty novels. Her most recent is Ring of Guilt (Severn House) the latest in the series featuring antique dealers Griff Tripp and Lina Townend. Check out the other novels on www.judithcutler.com
Wilson has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent crime novels and
thrillers, thoroughly researched, pacy page-turners with a beautiful sense of
place. So I turned to Stealing People
with a huge sense of anticipation.
As I know all too well, writing a series
brings its own problems. You are writing for (you hopes) both keen readers of
the previous novel and newcomers, and it’s very hard to marry the demands of you
to the other. How much background information does the reader need on the
characters? On their roles? You don’t want to bore old friends, or leave new ones
in the dark. Explanations inevitably slow down the pace – not great in a
thriller. But you can’t afford not to give them. The same applies to physical
descriptions of places or people. And
it’s a truism that the second in a series is always the hardest to write.
Sadly, perhaps in this book Wilson hasn’t
solved all the problems. The novel’s concept, a mysterious gang efficiently
kidnapping the children of ultra-wealthy globetrotters, with both the police
and Charles Boxer, a spiritually damaged kidnap-victim recovering PI
(technically he’s not, he works for a charity, but let’s not split hairs),
vying with international intelligence agencies to rescue the victims without
paying over billions of dollars in ransoms, is contemporary enough, as are the
problems of an under-resourced Met. However, Wilson doesn’t seem to have enough
empathy with the uber-rich (who does?) to make us care what happens to their
children: we’re not let into their lives or their parents’. After a brilliant, multi-stranded opening,
promising much, we get a hundred pages of inaction – morality, policy,
interpersonal-relationships. There are processions of names you can’t put faces
to, and equally faceless organisations lurking behind acronyms. At last, another kidnap!
Although we are told the action takes place
with London, there is no sense, as there is in many great novels in all genres,
of the location being real enough to be almost a character. There are more
human characters than lentils in a dhal, but they sweep by without us getting
to know them (does the writer?). We are told about relationships but not
invited into them. Sadly, this is not
Robert Wilson at his brilliant best.
Anyone familiar with my reviews knows that
I always try to look for positives and praise anything I can. But I’m afraid
that all I can do now is suggest that you read Stealing People for yourself and
hope that you enjoy it more than I did.