Saving Rachel - Do Women Really Read John Locke?

Kindle book review

 John Locke – Saving Rachel cover

Of all the ways there are to write a thriller, 'Saving Rachel' must be said to fall into the 'outrageous' category.

Think of Raymond Chandler freed of all the moral qualms of his day and with his inhibitions loosened and you would get one step of the way towards placing John Locke's novel. Or imagine sitting in a bar next to a guy who really knows how to talk and who has the task of constructing the most implausible story - to explain away why he has just slept with the most beautiful woman in the world while all along he feels guilty about cheating on his loyal wife - and you would be another step closer. Add to this the fact that your storyteller seems set to take as many chances as possible that you might suspect him of straying into the wild, wacky and downright preposterous deliberately to strain your sense of belief in what he is telling you before drawing back just at the point where you might say, 'now that really is going too far' and you would be most of the way there.

The success of 'Saving Rachel ' is all about this voice, captured so well. It's the goal of many authors. It seems easy. Tell the story to your reader as if you are the main character speaking directly to them. The great writers achieve this effortlessly. The rest struggle to find the voice. Here, discounting any claims to effort or higher purpose, John Locke is right there on the money.

Within the parameters of yarn spinning and risk taking, the flow of prose is infectious: "I'm grounded, but the world around me starts swirling at an insane speed, like I'm stuck in the eye of a tornado, only there's no flying cow. I want to vomit. I want to fall to the ground and pound my fists and scream until this crazy day ends, But I don't do any of these things……."

He references Stephen King once ("I feel like I'm on a hundred-mile-an-hour roller coaster to hell, with Stephen King at the controls.") and he has certainly taken the great thriller writer's advice – there are no adjectives anywhere to be seen.

The improbability of it all is splendid, semi-surreal at times, inspiring delight at its barefaced cheek. There is the odd 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern' effect as the story is recounted through the eyes of Sam Case when the title tells you that this is a 'Donovan Creed novel' and said contract killer Creed is hardly to be seen.

Creed does in fact take up the narrator role two thirds of the way through, an odd transition where too much of the improbability is attempted to be explained away. Indeed, the Creed voice is the same voice but with a shallow callousness that undermines all that has gone before. This takes away the possibility of the triumph of an ordinary man like Sam Case over adversity, however bizarre, and replaces it with the cynical contention that men like Case are bound to fail at the hands of manipulation by truly evil men like Creed.

More strangely, Rachel and Sam's story has a continuation of sorts in the follow up novel, 'Wish List'. There, it is clear that far from being saved, Rachel has been made a doomed creature for the fulfillment of Creed's weird fantasies and Sam a pathetic bystander.

A dose of reality or cynical anti-humanitarianism? It's for you to decide.

Meanwhile, John Locke claims that a majority of his readers are women. How can that be?

Star rating: ***

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