Captured by Neil Cross

The extraordinary novel, Always the Sun was my introduction to British author, Neil Cross, the author/creator of Luther. I’d been meaning to return to Cross for some time, and my second novel by this author was Captured–a huge disappointment as it turned out. The premise of Captured is simple and yet fraught with problems: middle-aged Kenny is diagnosed with terminal brain  cancer and with just a few short weeks to live, he decides to make a list of people “he’d in some way let down. He’d decided to use the time he had left to put things right.”  This is the sort of scenario many of us consider–just what would we do with a few weeks if we are given a death sentence. Kenny makes his list, a rather short one I should add with just 4 names on it, and then sets out to contact those on the list. Soon there’s just one person left, Callie Barton, a woman he knew years ago, but when he tries to track her down, he discovers that she disappeared years ago, and that her abusive husband was the main suspect in the case.

Kenny begins by breaking into Callie’s former home and gets a sense of the sort of man her husband is. Things go rapidly downhill from there…..

capturedCaptured is extremely violent, and it lacks all of the subtlety of Always the Sun. If I’d read Captured first, it would have been my last Cross novel for the violence alone, but there are also problems with plot credibility.  Would a man with six weeks or less to live spend it tracking down a little girl he knew way back in his childhood? And would he spend most of those few weeks in a no-holds barred way to discover the truth? And then, really stretching, would there only be 4 people on the list? The small number seemed plot driven more than anything else and allowed a number of pages to rack up before Kenny got down to the real business of finding Callie. In answer to all those questions, there’s always the argument that loner Kenny might be crazy. After all, his father was, and then we know nothing about Kenny before we learn of his diagnosis. Sympathy for the terminal illness washes away any possibility, at least at first, that this might not be a very nice man…. So there are some physiological complexities here if you don’t mind wading through, violence, blood and the odd bit of torture to get to the end.

So a disappointing read. Anyone else read Neil Cross?

Review copy

 

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8 Comments

Filed under Cross Neil, Fiction

8 responses to “Captured by Neil Cross

  1. I haven’t read Cross, but I liked his writing for the Spooks television series (he was their lead writer for a while). The violence would put me off this one. In fact, I ended up abandoning the Luther TV series for the same reason – I just found it too disturbing despite the quality of the writing and performances.

    • I haven’t seen Luther but it’s good to know your opinion. Sometimes these crime programmes load on the violence and gore and you start feeling like a voyeur. I’m never interested in how; it’s why.

      • It was series 2 that got to me. I’ve tried to wipe the details from my brain, but it was pretty horrific to watch and it seemed to be dwelling on the violence. I bailed during the second episode, so I don’t know how deeply it went into the ‘why’. I agree that’s the interesting part. Idris Elba is excellent in it though, very fine acting.

  2. I’ve started watching Luther but I didn’t find it believable and stopped after two or three episodes. You do mean the one with Idris Elba, right?

    • That’s the one. It is far-fetched (but knowingly so if that makes sense) and something happens towards the end of series one to hook you into the second. Although that’s when I abandoned it due to the violence. I suspect the best thing about Luther is Idris Elba’s performance.

      I really liked Cross’s writing on Spooks, the spy drama – he was the lead writer for a couple of the best seasons.

  3. I like Luther, which as Jacqui rightly says is knowingly far-fetched, mostly for Idris Elba. Spooks I wasn’t a fan of.

    This doesn’t tempt, not least as it doesn’t sound like it comes off quite.

    An interesting take on the same basic concept is the graphic novel Tumor, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Noel Tuazon, in which a PI with a fatal brain tumor and about a week to live takes one last case…

    If you don’t mind the graphic novel element, it’s one to look out for. A very nicely done slice of noir.

  4. The image on the cover is rather violent too, I think.
    Too bad this was a weak book.

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