Author, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, James Siegel, Publisher, Setting, Time Warner Books, USA

‘Detour’ by James Siegel


Fiction – paperback; Time Warner Books; 406  pages; 2005.   

First things first. If you read this book you need to check your brain at the door. Detour is not highbrow literature. Instead it’s a fast-paced plot-driven romp that reads like a movie screenplay. It’s well written in the sense that it’s effortless to read. But if you’re expecting something that will rock your world or make you see things in a different light or have you reassessing your life, then give this one a wide berth. It’s enjoyable and entertaining. No more, no less.

Like Siegel’s previous effort, Derailed (which was turned into a movie starring Jennifer Aniston), Detour is about ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. In this case, a young New York couple, Joanna and Paul, travel to Colombia to adopt a baby as part of a fast-track scheme set up by their lawyer. Of course Colombia is a dangerous country — a point which Siegel labours again and again throughout this long novel — and there’s a menace around every corner. Not surprisingly, the couple and their new adorable baby girl, Joelle, are kidnapped by left-wing militia — and then things really heat up.

Paul enters into a deal to secure their release: he must travel to New York as a drug mule with 30 condoms of cocaine inside him. He has 18 hours to deliver them to an address in Queens and once the drugs are safely handed over, Joanna and Joelle will be free to return to the USA. If he doesn’t hand them over, he will never see his wife and daughter again…

Of course — you guessed it — things don’t go according to plan, but to say any more would spoil the plot…

Detour is certainly an adrenalin-fuelled read. Siegel is shameless in wringing every last drop of fear out of the reader, manipulating events so that you’re never quite sure what is going to happen next. He’s very good at pulling at the heartstrings too — a pet hate of mine, I must add — and of building up the tension only to offer up an over-the-top-almost-ridiculous succession of climaxes that don’t really ring true.

However, if you can tolerate the narrative “tricks” and don’t mind loopholes in the story (for instance, when was the last time you read a book in which a character couldn’t ring the police because his landline had been disconnected even though he’d been using a mobile phone regularly up until that point?), then you’ll enjoy this thriller. I found it slightly annoying and about 100 pages too long, but other than that it was a cracking story that didn’t tax the grey matter too much, perfect for when you want a lazy I-don’t-need-to-use-my-brain read.

Author, Book review, Charley Boorman, Ewan McGregor, Non-fiction, Publisher, Time Warner Books, travel, Uncategorized

‘Long Way Round’ by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman


Non-fiction – hardcover; Time Warner Books; 320 pages; 2004.

I’m often not very quick off the mark at the best of times, but when it came to discovering the wonder that is the 20,000 mile road trip from London to New York (the long way round) undertaken by actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman I am positively turtle-like.

This book, published in late 2004, accompanies the 10-part television documentary of the motorbiking adventure, now available here in the UK on DVD. I recently watched the DVD and fell immediately in love with it, so much so I promptly tracked down a secondhand copy of the book to immerse myself in.

The book, narrated in turn by McGregor and Boorman, is delightful. Easy to read. Funny. Sad. Full of adventure. It fills in a lot of the gaps not evident when watching the TV series — you get a more rounded view of what makes these men tick and how their relationship was tried and tested during the journey. You also get a good insight into the tensions between the two riders and their support crew, who generally followed a few days behind and got into their own difficulties along the way.

As a stand alone read, I’m not sure whether Long Way Round would have been as enjoyable. For instance, there are constant gripes, moans and whinges scattered on every page that might be off-putting if you have not experienced the joy of the documentary.

Still, it’s a great read about a courageous adventure and if you’ve ever wondered what it must be like to pursue a dream and then turn it into reality, then you’ll enjoy this book. And you don’t even have to love motorbikes to appreciate it!

Author, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, James Siegel, Publisher, Setting, Time Warner Books, USA

‘Derailed’ by James Siegel


Fiction – paperback; Time Warner Paperbacks; 416 pages; 2004.

James Siegel’s Derailed takes the best bits of The Firm and throws in a smattering of Fatal Attraction to deliver a lightning-paced read with enough twists, turns and downright unexpected seismic shifts to keep you turning the pages late into the night (or, in my case, morning).

Charles is a well-paid advertising executive who’s living a treadmill-like existence until he meets a beautiful stranger on a train. Besotted by the green-eyed Lucinda, he embarks on an illicit affair, momentarily forgetting his wife of 18 years and their sick teenage daughter. But his moment of pleasure turns quite unexpectedly into a violent nightmare in which rape, blackmail and murder all play a part.

I believe Derailed has recently been turned into a film, but this book does not read like a padded-out screenplay, Siegel is an accomplished story-teller. His writing is taut and he knows how to deliver enough cliff hangers and shocks to keep even the most jaded reader turning the pages. The dialogue is believable and his characterisation is spot on too.

Despite the unlikely situation that the narrator finds himself caught up in, not once did I find myself suspending belief, not once did I think how ludicrous. And perhaps that’s what makes this thriller such a rollicking good one: you know it could happen to you because it’s a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or is it?

My only quibble with this book is its slide into almost-farce in the latter third and its too-neat ending. Still, it’s an entertaining read and you’d be hard pressed to find a better thriller that pushes all the right buttons in all the right places. If you like that kind of thing.

Author, Book review, crime/thriller, England, Fiction, Publisher, Sarah Dunant, Setting, Time Warner Books

‘Transgressions’ by Sarah Dunant


Fiction – paperback; Time Warner Paperbacks; 375 pages; 1998.

Sarah Dunant’s Transgressions was a spur-of-the-moment purchase thanks to Amazon’s “Your Recommendations” which, I have to say, can be slightly dodgy at the best of times (I wish I’d never bought books on PhotoShop or Adobe InDesign for the office because I am constantly BOMBARDED with recommendations to buy more of the same, even though I’ve ticked all the right boxes to say “Please don’t use this purchase as a basis for a recommendation”).

But I digress . . .

This book is a thriller (recommended by Amazon, I am sure, due to my previous purchase of the odd Nicci French novel or two), but it’s unlike any thriller I’ve read before. Yes, there are some VERY scary moments and some edge-of-the-seat scenes that had me wanting to read late into the night. But — and it’s a BIG but — the story was slightly weird, in places the writing seemed contrived and in others the line between sex and porn became blurred. I can’t say I enjoyed the book, but it was a pacey and sometimes terrifying read, so I guess I couldn’t ask for too much more.

The story centres around Elizabeth, who makes her living translating books from Czech into English. She has recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend and finds herself rattling around the big house they once shared in suburban London. Strange, quirky things begin to happen in the house that disturb her because she can’t quite work out whether they are really happening or whether they are a figment of her imagination.

The fear factor goes up a few notches when Elizabeth wakes up in the middle of the night KNOWING that an uninvited guest is in the house. It’s HOW she deals with this intruder that readers may find disturbing . . .

Transgressions seems a very fitting title for this weird and slightly seedy book. It’s not the best thriller I’ve ever read, but by the same token it’s not a bad read — just a strange one . . .