Sunday, 18 October 2015

Review: A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson

Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 4*

In “A Line of Blood” we meet a small family living in North London.  Some would call them yuppies.  Alex Mercer, a Scot, is a television producer.  His wife Millicent, an ex-pat American, writes self-help books.  They try their best to live their life and provide good parenting for their son who is an intelligent and precocious eleven year-old named Max.

Alex and Millicent did not have a ‘usual’ beginning, but rather almost a marriage of convenience.   After a ‘hook-up’ and instant physical attraction, Millicent – a California girl – stays in London to be with Alex.  Because she is from the States, the only way she can legally stay and work in England is to marry.   After fifteen years of marriage Alex has never met Millicent’s parents.   They had muddled along nicely until they lose a baby, a girl, named Sarah.  Both grieve, but Millicent has a breakdown of sorts – and their son Max is so traumatized that his and his mother’s relationship is forever changed.  In fact the entire family dynamic is forever changed.

When Alex follows his son into the next-door neighbor’s yard in chase of their cat, what they discover will change and scar them even further.    They find their neighbor dead in the bath.  Fearful for the mental trauma that seeing a dead body might have on his son, Alex thinks that is the worst that can happen… but that is only the tip of the iceberg.  The police find a bracelet that belongs to Millicent in the neighbor’s house – beneath the bed…   The police request that Alex “help them with their inquiries”.  Betrayals, arrests, psychological counseling, adultery, suspicion, and domestic violence are all results of their discovery.  Life will never be the same for the family Alex calls his ‘little tribe’.

How the neighbor came to meet his demise drives the story and the reader is compelled to discover the who, the why, and the how it will change lives.   “The line of blood” differs from most other psychological thrillers in that the narrative is told solely from the male point of view via the character of Alex.  All the characters depicted in the novel were fully-fleshed out and very believable.  Written with an empathetic voice and an understanding of human nature, this is a debut novel that packs a punch.  It is equally disturbing and compelling. I would highly recommend it to all lovers of mystery and suspense.

Ben McPhersonI always wonder about the author’s reasons for choosing a specific title.  In this case I can only assume that he is referring to the protagonist’s family ‘line’ and how violent death seems to visit each generation.

Ben McPherson was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was eighteen. He studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for many years in film and television in London.  In 1998, after working a forty-eight-hour shift, he went for a drink at the Coach and Horses in Soho and met the woman he would go on to marry. Similarities to the characters in A Line of Blood end there.  Ben now lives in Oslo with his wife and their two sons. He is a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway’s leading quality daily newspaper.

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Reviewed for MCT by Lynne L.

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