My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Richard Godwin’s One Lost Summer takes a detour from the author’s trademark noir / psychological thriller / horror stylings and answers with a resounding “Yes!” the question “Can Richard write anything other than horror thrillers?”
A novel steeped in mystery and suspense, with a subtle yet unmistakable eroticism, One Lost Summer takes the reader deep inside the mind of a damaged man… a tortured soul… where we are witness to the ‘shrouded’ dance of the watcher and the watched.
The story begins one hot summer… the mystery, long before that. And if there is a moral to this story, it is this…
Some things… once lost… were not meant to be found.
Unfortunately, some people find that out too late.
Identity… it is what makes man… it is what breaks man. If I had to choose one word to describe the theme of Richard Godwin’s latest novel… a blend of noir mystery and psychological thriller… ‘identity’ would be that word. Some might disagree with that, but… to paraphrase Joe Pesci in Goodfellas (I think)… “It is what it is.”
At first blush, One Lost Summer would appear to be a simple obsédé noir… a middle-aged voyeur drowning in the pool of his own desire, spending his every waking moment, as well as not-inconsiderable amounts of money, watching his neighbor and cataloging her existence on film.
But… with a master story-teller such as Richard Godwin… well, ‘simple’ just doesn’t apply. This soon becomes apparent as the layers that make up the mystery of filmmaker Rex Allen’s new life are exposed to the often unforgiving glare of the reader.
One Lost Summer is a slow reveal. That is not to say the story is slow, on the contrary; the pacing of One Lost Summer is ‘pitch-perfect’, to borrow a phrase from the music world. Page after page, the suspense builds… occasionally ebbing, so as to allow the reader a respite to consider what has transpired so far.
And to ponder on the two traps of man….
Identity… and memory. One is lost without the other.
Memory can be a cruel mistress. She will taunt and tease… scattering words and broken thoughts, like breadcrumbs, on the floor of one’s conscious. If there are secrets that she is not ready to give up – and there always are – no amount of begging will help. Memory will reveal the bits and pieces of one’s past in her own fashion… and in her own time. And… she always wants something in return. Always.
And this is the ‘crux’ of Rex’s problem. Memory, or more accurately, the absence of a good portion of his, is what drives Rex… what moves him to uproot from his home outside greater London to the suburbs of Surrey, where hopefully a change of scenery and distance from the noise and static of his former life will bring some peace and where Rex can begin to rebuild what was lost. If only he had more than a few broken shards from which to start.
Rex Allen has an obsession. He sees beauty in the ordinary and ordinary in beauty, and seemingly, has an almost singular compulsion with dominating the spirit of those who cross the path of his obsession.
It starts with a single image… flashing in the recesses of his mind like a relentless strobe… teasing something deeper, something still chained… unable to rise to the surface of Rex’s consciousness, where it can be named and placed in this new life of his… put into perspective.
And from that image, a word… “Coral…”
And from that one word, in what is… for lack of a better word… a Dr. Frankenstein-esque quest, Rex attempts to bring to life something more than just a memory. And in doing so, he discovers – or, rediscovers – the ‘flexibility’ of his own moral code. Ironically, he fails to see, or refuses to see, his own reflection in the morality of this new ‘world’ he has found himself in and which he soon grows contemptuous of.
When at last he can begin to enjoy – although, I’m not sure that ‘enjoy’ was ever a part of Rex’s emotional make-up… ‘possess’ might be a better word – the fruits of his labors, something changes. The stage of Rex’s little deux jeux de caractères is suddenly crowded with the arrival of ‘truth’… stage right.
But, as I mentioned earlier… one should be careful of what they wish for. La vérité n’est pas toujours mis un libre.
From page one, the narrative of Richard’s latest novel has a mesmeric hold on the reader, pulling them along… with questions rising as images flash past… and just when the reader thinks they have a firm grasp on the reality of the story, there is that Godwin “turn” that makes the reader sit up and go “Oh!”
At times, the tension is almost palpable… like the taste of silver amalgam… and brings an expectation not unlike that conjured in watching the recalcitrant fuse of a firework moving inexorably toward its explosive conclusion.
And at other times, there is an almost dreamlike quality to parts of the narrative that is like – to borrow Richard’s words – “… a key turning in a lock. Over and over and over…” And with each page turn… a flash of memory… not unlike that of light glinting off the polished surface of a key turning in a lock, as another bit of the mystery is revealed.
Seductive and suspenseful, One Lost Summer is a dark, richly woven mystery… a riveting tale of deception of self and a frightening look inside the human mind and the lengths and depths one will stir to possess another. Richard Godwin writes, with disturbing clarity, the psychosis of a man possessed by beauty, to the exclusion of all else.
One Lost Summer is a `must-read’… it “hits all the marks” of a classic and timeless mystery and is well worth a few sleepless nights.
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
(Writing under a large mushroom, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest)
5 August 2013
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