Jul 9, 2011

Book Review–The Loner by Quintin Jardine

The Loner is a stand alone novel from acclaimed Scottish crime novelist Quintin Jardine, though it does feature a cameo from Bob Skinner (of the 19 book series).  This is my first Jardine novel, I’m not a big crime fan but if The Loner is an example of Jardine’s work then I am more than prepared to give any of his books a shot.

The Tale
The story is presented as an autobiographical account of the famous (fictional) journalist Xavier(Xavi) Ailsado. A gentle giant of mixed parentage who’s brought up in Edinburgh by his grandmother (a refugee from Franco’s Spain). His father, a successful businessman, eventually moves the family back to Spain, and Xavi is left to grow to manhood on his own terms in Scotland. An injury ends a promising career as a professional footballer player, after which he turns to his real passion – journalism. Though Xavi’s life has had difficulties he seems to have brushed most of these aside a landed on his feet.  As the story unfolds though, the reader comes to realise that Xavi has his hardest trials ahead of him.

The story is presented as an autobiographical account but constructed (with additional research )as manuscript by Jardine. Indeed Jardine sets the reader with up with a co-authors note explaining this.
Xavi’s autobiographical sequences then are interspersed with cut scenes to dialogue between characters that are present in Xavi’s version.  Some times these cut scenes reveal clues or aspects that bear direct relation to the next scene, at other times their import becomes apparent further into the story. 

Aside from balancing out the voice of Xavi, the cut scenes are an excellent way of building tension.  The reveal the thoughts and actions of characters outside of Xavi’s knowledge, drop clues or suggest possibilities to the reader.  All of which combine to lead us to the niggling, uncomfortable conclusion that our seemingly impervious protagonist is heading towards disaster. 

A gutting finish
Xavi’s life story is interesting in and of  itself, a professional footballer turned journalist, son of a media magnate. The story moves along quite steadily, slowly building tension. Xavi leads a charmed life, but we know from the authors note at the beginning that the end of his story is going to be a sad one.

Jardine’s skill is in making us think that the story is going one way, makes us believe that one tragedy is the end point, when all a long he’s been dropping clues that lead to an ending that blindside me and left me gutted as a reader(it was quite literally gut wrenching). 

Very few books evoke an emotional reaction from me.  Indeed I can off the top of my head only think of three.  Jardine has done such a masterful job at presenting Xavi as an endearing, loveable character (no doubt the choice of autobiographical form aided this)that even if the story was fiction my emotions and empathy for Xavi were real. 

It’s not a book that I can say read it and you’ll have a great time.  It is however, a brilliant book, one that demonstrates the power of a good writer in bringing characters truly to life. 

This book was a review copy provided by Headline at no cost to myself.
quintinFrom Quintin’s Website: Quintin Jardine was born in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, and educated there and in Glasgow, where he studied snooker and, in his leisure moments, law, at what was then the city’s only University.
After deciding that he would never reach professional status in either discipline, he looked towards a broader horizon. He enjoyed, most of the time, a wholly unplanned, but eventful career as a journalist, government information officer, political spin-doctor and media relations consultant, before deciding to find a job that was more in touch with reality. Thus he took to the creation of crime fiction like a Trident-loaded nuclear submarine to water.

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