Long Time Lost by Chris Ewan - book review: A masterful thriller with a tense climax

If something of the quirky individual character of the writer’s earlier books is slightly sacrificed here, it's more than outweighed by the gains in Ewan’s mastery of the high-octane thriller idiom

Barry Forshaw
Wednesday 01 June 2016 11:48
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Chris Ewan's latest novel demonstrates his mastery of creating a tense, suspenseful story
Chris Ewan's latest novel demonstrates his mastery of creating a tense, suspenseful story

Published by Faber, £12.99

The service provided by the canny Nick Miller and his team may not be strictly legal, but it's lucrative. For a price, people in danger are relocated in different countries and provided with fresh identities and lives. Nick himself is more than familiar with such deceptions, having lived for years under an assumed name. But he finds himself obliged to intervene when a witness he has relocated, Kate Sutherland, has her life threatened on the Isle of Man. Nick is to discover to his cost that the man who wants to murder Kate also wants him dead. And soon it's not just Nick and Kate’s lives that are at risk, but the entire organisation that Nick has run for years.

Safe House, Chris Ewan’s recent standalone thriller, gleaned both critical praise and healthy sales, not to mention a film option. The latter may never be taken up (such things often aren’t), but Ewan has at least moved out of the ranks of talented but under-regarded thriller writers into more profitable territory – a trajectory that may be continued with this latest novel. And if something of the quirky individual character of the writer’s earlier books is slightly sacrificed here, it's more than outweighed by the gains in Ewan’s mastery of the high-octane thriller idiom – and those gains include sharp characterisation: Nick and Kate are fully rounded, persuasive individuals.

Ewan originally made a mark with his divertingly picaresque crime series The Good Thief's Guides, then moved into a different kind of novel, books set in the author's own Manx territory, which proved to be just as intriguing as the earlier titles. Safe House dealt with governmental corruption and international terrorism, and the subsequent Dark Tides was even better, this time drawing on the Isle of Man Halloween convention of Hop-tu-naa. These sinister aspects of Manx folklore are not to be found in Long Time Lost, but while the new book may not be as atmospheric, it is equally difficult to put down. By the time we reach the tense climax in a rotting old boathouse — with revelations coming thick and fast — it's clear that Ewan has justified the considerable length of the book — no mean achievement, given that the basic narrative might have been dispensed in half the length. Nevertheless, fellow novelist Ann Cleeves’ description of him as a "master storyteller" pretty well hits the nail on the head.

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