Whodunnit that ultimately disappoints

2010-02-17 00:00

BOOK REVIEW

Salvage

Gee Williams

Penguin

ANYONE who reads Gee Williams’s ­debut novel, Salvage, expecting a classic whodunnit might be disappointed.

It starts off in classic murder- ­mystery territory. A couple walking on the beach on the Welsh coast make an unexpected discovery among the flotsam and jetsam — a magnificent pink diamond ring with a human ­finger still attached.

The couple in question, Elly and Martin, have been loaned the cottage of Dr Richard Congreve, an old friend of Martin’s, and they are hoping that their week-long holiday might heal some rifts in their relationship.

Elly is suspicious about Richard’s generous offer and as the book progresses it seems she might be right. The doctor is having an affair with one of the nurses, Hayley, and is so smitten he might well leave his wife, Pippa, for her. Martin knows about the affair — is that why ­Richard lent him the cottage or is there something more to it?

When a body with a missing finger is found the dishy doctor’s ­behaviour certainly becomes more and more suspicious. It seems that the ­deceased met with foul play and that there is a link to him. So far, so good.

My problem with Salvage is that there is no real satisfactory conclusion. Yes, we find out who died, but sometimes as a reader you want more. An explanation of why the characters have behaved the way they have.

I think the problem lies with how Williams has structured her novel. Each of the main characters gets to tell a story, a strand of the same ­overall narrative. That would be okay if she managed to pull all these strands together in a cohesive whole at the end. Unfortunately that doesn’t really happen and I got to the last page of Salvage feeling ­rather ­disappointed and definitely ­dissatisfied.

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