Written by Richard Parker — This book starts out with a very promising, intriguing premise. Will Frost is a successful, if somewhat overworked businessman. He is the CEO of an international pipeline company, owner of a beautiful country home just outside London, and is a devoted husband and father. He seems to have the perfect life, until he is woken up one night by an anonymous caller who asks him: ‘When did you last Google yourself?’
He gets up uneasily to do just that and his life is forever changed, as he gets caught up in a deadly race to keep his family safe. What he finds online are pictures of seven houses – one of them his own, six more he has never seen before. In each of them a gruesome murder has just happened or is about to happen, and Will is sent on a wild and desperate chase all over the world to recover something from each crime scene. He also has to discover what links all those houses and the people who live in them. Could this be a ruthless business rival or someone opposing his wife’s involvement in local planning? Whoever he or she is, this formidable opponent seems to have great technical skills, a diabolical mind and an intimate knowledge of Will and what makes him tick.
While it seems somewhat implausible that a man with Will’s business acumen and worldwide connections would resort to a DIY approach instead of calling the police, I was willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of a clever story with many twists and turns. However, a fast, almost breathless pace of storytelling does not necessarily make for a coherent read.
Don’t get me wrong: I read the book in a single night. It is the kind of book that is very difficult to put down once you start. It is thrilling entertainment, the very definition of a page-turner, but there are a few fundamental flaws which spoil the reading experience somewhat. First, the overly explicit scenes of violence become gratuitous after a while. Secondly, even though the initial set-up is interesting, by the time you reach the fourth or fifth house in the series, it begins to feel vaguely repetitive. Thirdly, despite the extensive build-up of tension, the solution to the mystery is a bit of a let-down. And finally, Will seems to be the only fully-rounded character in the novel. Perhaps we’d like to understand more about his wife Carla, about his daughter Libby, about why this family was not quite as happy as they should have been.
This may seem like a harsh assessment of what is the author’s second novel, so it’s worth adding that Richard Parker has a strong, confident voice and that his scenes are spot-on in terms of creating atmosphere. There is a real cinematic quality to the whole novel. It is therefore not surprising to learn that the author has been a professional TV writer for many years and that the book has already been optioned for a film. I have no doubt it will make an excellent thriller on TV or in the cinemas.
This book will appeal readers who want a fast, furious read, with no holds barred. Those looking for more psychology or subtlety will be happier elsewhere. Scare Me is out on 2 May.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars