Review: Captured by Neil Cross

captured by neil cross Review: Captured by Neil Cross

Blurb: Even though he is still young, Kenny has just weeks to live. Before he dies, he wants to find his childhood best friend Callie Barton and thank her for the kindness she showed him when they were at school together.
But when Kenny begins his search, he discovers that Callie Barton has gone missing. Although cleared of any involvement, her husband Jonathan seems to be hiding something.
Kenny has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. And knowing that time is running out on him, hes prepared to do whatever it takes . . .

To Kenny 'Happy' Drummond, the belittled and ostracised boy in op-shop clothes and with an odd artistic flair, the classroom attentions of Callie Barton were something to cherish. A smile, a touch, the hooking of her foot around his beneath the schoolroom tables'these helped Kenny cope with the loss of his mother and the manic-depressive fervour of his father. Until Callie one day abruptly and without warning simply moved away.

Now, it appears, several decades later, she has vanished again. Kenny has recently been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour, and has decided in his final days to right certain wrongs and tie up loose ends. He writes a list of those whom he has slighted, and on it are four people. Two of these are dealt with quite quickly and in an almost mawkish manner: many years ago, Kenny was a witness to a would-be abduction of a young boy, and has been eaten up with guilt over having not done more to help. However, the sentimentality shown of the scene where Kenny speaks with the boy, now a young man, is in vast contrast to the brutal and sadistic turn of events that follows.

Kenny's efforts to find Callie at first turn up nothing, until a microfiche search shows that she has been missing for several years. Her husband, of course, is suspected of her murder, but no charges have been laid. In a strange moment of impetuousness, Kenny breaks into Callie's husband's home, and having done so, has stepped on to a path from which there is apparently no return. Given Cross's spare use of language and his quiet approach to back story, it is difficult to see what exactly has triggered this sudden turn in Kenny's attitude: is it that the limiting effects of conscience and personal ethics are easily laid aside given his imminent death? Is he attempting to purge himself of the hurt and torment he has experienced in his life? It is almost difficult to believe that it is Callie herself that has triggered this astonishingly manic episode, as other than the description of her above, she has played little role in Kenny's life in the intervening years since her first disappearance.

In part because of this, the events that follow do require some suspension of disbelief, for it is hard to reconcile Kenny's sudden devolution into unfettered violence with the fairly mundane and almost phlegmatic man to whom we have been introduced. Still, there's no doubt that what follows is intensely gripping. Cross has a taciturn writing style that requires the reader to squeeze inferences from the small snippets he gives us, and the result is a tense and horrifying read. While Kenny's motivations never ring quite true, and the story is waylaid a little by a minor character who suddenly asserts himself towards the end of the book, Kenny's maniacal fixation over Callie's husband's ostensible wrongdoing is a horrific examination of obsession and of what happens when one is unshackled from the normative constraints of everyday life.

200px 3.5 stars.svg 4 Review: Captured by Neil Cross

With thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia for providing a review copy.

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