1 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) is a crime/detective ‘thriller’ following a group of friends, traumatised by a childhood tragedy, into their similarly dramatic adult lives.
Author Barry Litherland uses a small-town setting as the backdrop to a murder mystery that is – or isn’t - tied into some shady dealings by people in positions of power.
Everything is written in the present tense. Almost all the characters involved in the present day are involved in the flashbacks to childhood. The character’s voices hardly change no matter which era they inhabit, with the exception of the kids being a bit shy of swearing. This can be very confusing as many scenes – past and present – take place in the same spots with the same people. Writing the past in the past tense would have easily cleared this up.
The plot navigates listlessly at times and it’s easy to forget the rather thin premise. Helpfully, several characters give you a recap every few chapters. The plot, as such, is often overshadowed by the voice of the author booming from the book’s main character, a journalist called Phil. Phil’s life musings leap out at you, usually because they are wedged into a completely inappropriate scene and because they are long and drawn out. Maybe hospitals shouldn’t charge for parking, and yes the lines on floors you follow to navigate around hospitals can be frustrating – does the reader need paragraphs about it while Phil is rushing to the hospital to see a possibly dying man? While Phil is with the dying man’s daughter? And his life is under threat?
Phil flip flops from despising the other characters to helping them out, jumping from a coward to beating people up to not being able to write to becoming a detective. Phil feels everything and yet I felt nothing at all for Phil, other than frustration at his fickle ways.
Tense are dramatic situations are almost always easily and often ridiculously resolved by characters simply doing what is required, be it in their nature or not. No one character feels like a barrier to anyone. Phil starts the book as a suspect and within a few breaths, the detective that interviewed him is sharing investigation secrets with Phil and letting Phil sit in on official police work.
Phil can get beaten up and threatened with death but he has time to date and wonder about love, describe a microwave meal and generally gad about while the clock is ticking. There are many, many flaws like this that stick in your mind, rather than the meandering plot. The author often answers the question you may have about a scene, and it’s usually answered with the path of least resistance. The draining of drama is what I disliked the most in the book.
There is precious little description. I left the book with no sense of location - ironic considering the title – and when there is, there are odd repetitions; synchronously appears in adjacent chapters, as does the comparison of two completely different characters to sea creatures within about three pages of each other.
They are only so noticeable because overall, apart from a couple of misplaced speech marks, the book is quite well edited. But do have fun looking for compound adjectives missing their hyphens throughout.
Barry Litherland does have a talent for short, concise sentences that lend very well to action scenes; those scenes were my favourite part of his writing. The final few chapters of the book gain some traction, action and excitement and there’s even a surprise or two. No, just one.
The crying shame is that there is a decent story hiding away in this book. It needs to be about 100 pages shorter, losing a lot of the self-indulgent ponderings on life and making characters more cumbersome, less pliable and more credible. I could give Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) three stars in that scenario. As it is, I can only give it 1 out of 4 stars because it fails to make the most of its promise, which is a shame.
This book is for people who just don’t want to wonder what is happening and don’t mind the distractions of prosaic opinions about the Daily Mail. It is not for anyone that likes a genuine crime thriller.
Waves Break (on Unknown Shores)
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon