Book Review: The Night Book by Richard Madeley
Ok, let me get something straight with you before I talk about the book.
I’ve put off reading Richard Madeley’s books, not because I doubted his fiction writing skills (he comes across as articulate, quick-witted and quirky and, given he was a journalist for years, he already has the potential hallmarks of a seasoned pro in my mind). The main reason I’ve avoided reading his books is because I know he would be uppermost in my mind as I read.
I know it sounds mad. But I always hear the narrator’s voice in my head and, of course, even though the narrator in The Night Book isn’t Richard Madeley per se, he’s there, reading aloud to me, with his floppy hair and leaning forward in his Jackanory rocking chair at the bottom of my bed.
Another reason why I’d never picked up a Madeley novel is because I didn’t want to read any naughty bits. I didn’t want to be thinking about him and Judy (you can’t not, really, can you?) or worse, picturing them throughout the bedroom scenes. I know you’re nodding your head, too, here, right?!
Anyway, how can you read a book with your fingers in your ears as you shout, “La, la, la, I can’t hear you!”?
But I decided I’d put all my opinions to one side, one day, when I was in The Works looking for a quick, cheap book to start reading that night, and the blurb pulled me in. (Great job, Richard!)
Ok, now we’ve got that out in the open, let’s dive into the book. The Night Book to be precise.
Set in the late ‘70s in the Lake District, it’s the hottest summer anyone can remember. Hot enough to warm up the year-round cold Lakes and wreak havoc amongst the locals and tourists. You see, the deep dark waters are claiming victims – without cause or reason – and nobody knows how or why so many people (including strong swimmers) are suddenly drowning.
Thirty-something-year-old radio presenter, Meriel, is successful, gorgeous, rich, and appears to have everything. Despite her outward confidence, reputation and charisma, however, she’s keeping a dark and dangerous secret. She’s trapped in an abusive marriage and her husband’s disturbing ways are pushing her buttons to the limit.
She can’t confide in anyone. She can’t flee her husband because they are both in the public eye and the media would have a field day. The only outlet she has is her nightly journaling. In her Night Book she writes about wreaking revenge on her husband. She journals ideas as to how she finally kills him when he’s asleep and/or unaware. She talks about the breadknife she kills him with and the way his blood spurts and the final weird gurgling noises he makes before he takes his last breath.
And that’s what I love about his book. The dark undercurrents, the atmosphere, and the chance to see Meriel’s evil alter-ego at its finest and far away from her adoring public. Sometimes the finely detailed phantom murders made me laugh out loud – and I’m sure that wasn’t the intention – but hey, ho, I like getting value for money when it comes to reading books.
I couldn’t quite understand what was causing the drownings at first either – this is explained clearly during the denouement, though, and is nowhere near as far-fetched as I’d imagined. And as well as this plot strand, I was also gripped by what was going to happen to Meriel, her evil (and incredibly rich) husband, Cameron, and the third person in the love triangle, Seb Richmond, young radio reporter (with floppy hair… hmmm…) who finds himself working on Lake District FM (much to his chagrin).
The storyline is refreshing, and even though the characters are slightly cliché (and I couldn’t help but warm to them) I found myself enjoying the book. I actually looked forward to bedtime so I could catch up on another chapter. I know! I couldn’t believe it either!
It’s certainly a good holiday read that you could race through on the plane to Spain. And, actually, apart from a bit of unnecessary swearing, a few cringey love at first sight scenes, and a bit of Barbara Cartland thrown in for good measure, I did enjoy this book.
If you read it, don’t expect a gripping psychological thriller that will tax your brain. And don’t anticipate an unpredictable ending. Just accept it for an engaging piece of historical fiction with a beautiful backdrop, and a cinematic finish, that will keep you hooked.
As I write this, the Kindle version is just 99p, so if I’ve sparked any smiles or reactions with my review, go grab a copy now (but don’t read the Amazon reviews because they’ll put you off).