REVIEW: Marlborough Man
Alan Carter (2017)
By Tristan Sherlock
The mystery and suspense of Criminal Minds meets the action-packed and thrilling atmosphere of Taken in Alan Carter’s 2017 novel Marlborough Man. Unfortunately for Carter Marlborough Man is all great premise with less great execution.
The biggest flaw present in Marlborough Man is the narrator’s voice. The novel starts off perfectly. The short prologue was suspenseful, but most importantly it made you want to read more. Everything about the prologue should’ve been applied to the rest of the novel. However, this wasn’t the case. Quite quickly we shift from the suspenseful third-person narration to a laid back and, not to be blunt, boring first-person narration. Now, in saying that, I have nothing against Nick’s character. Alan wrote Nick perfectly: he was deep, complex and he developed realistically. Nick was simply too much of a laid-back character too narrate a novel with the intensity of Marlborough Man. So much so, it disrupted from the urgency that should’ve been present in a novel that deals with the kidnapping, molestation and murdering of children. Nick’s narration also prevented the novel from being as much of a page-turner as it could’ve been. Not once did I make it to the end of the chapter and want to read on. Marlborough Man is the type of novel that would’ve worked far better having it in third-person all throughout rather than a few chapters.
Thankfully, the narration is really the only issue present in the novel. Of course, there are other fallings but mostly they can be linked to the narration. But other than that, everything else in the novel is presented quite well. Alan Carter manages to successfully entwine two stories (Nick’s Past and Present) and make them into one. Not only that, he doesn’t allow any of his storylines to get boring. Once they’re done, they’re done. Carter makes quick work of what he wants to get across, and it is because of that the novel doesn’t become in the slightest uneventful.
Carter isn’t afraid to play with the idea that each character in Marlborough Man is hiding behind a façade. Thanks to this each character becomes so much more interesting. Carter added insane amounts of depth and complexities to each one of his characters. You can’t help but want to know more, even the ones you don’t really like.
Another thing that worked well in the novel is that, even if the narrator himself didn’t have too much of a problem with it, there was no denying who was in the wrong or what was the wrong way of thinking. In the case of Nick, Carter would constantly have a character right behind Nick to tell him he was wrong. Additionally, the novel doesn’t let anyone justify their wrongdoings.
The plot of the novel is enticing enough. In some ways, it seems very formulaic but there is something about the way Carter set out the plot that gave it something new. Despite its ‘thriller-esque’ there are no overly long action scenes, or suspense scenes. Everything lasts just long enough, if not, slightly too short.
The strongest aspect of the novel is the way in which Carter describes New Zealand. He describes it as a fantasyland, like it’s something out of Game of Thrones. This partly comes across as a reference to the Lord of the Rings franchise being filmed in New Zealand, but either way it really adds to the scenery and atmosphere we imagine. It’s so vividly described, in both a beautiful yet haunting way, which even if you haven’t been to New Zealand you’ll know exactly what Carter is on about.
While Marlborough Man is strong in many aspects, it is unfortunate that its one poor aspect is the most important feature of any novel. However, I do believe that Marlborough Man is a novel that everyone should at least attempt to read.