Monday, 15 June 2015

REVIEW: Lisa Ballantyne - Redemption Road

Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: 8th Jan 2015
Pages: 448


I received an advance copy of Redemption Road by Lisa Ballantyne from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Piatkus.

Having never read anything by Lisa Ballantyne before, I was drawn to this book on NetGalley by the blurb and the fact Lisa’s first book, The Guilty One received such rave reviews. I expected good things. I got good things but not the “wow” things I was looking for.

In 2013 Margaret Holloway is involved in a motorway pile up. She is trapped in her car and only survives after being rescued by a hideously scarred man she doesn’t know.

In 1985 George McLaughlin has come into some money. He stole it. His family is known for being gangsters but George is the black sheep. He appears to be the good one. He has only ever loved Kathleen. She left seven years ago with their daughter to start a new life away from George. He has decided he wants her back, and he wants his daughter back. In a turn of events that no one could have seen coming, George ends up on the run with his daughter but without Kathleen.

How do things turn out for George? Who is the mysterious character who has rescued Margaret? Is there a connection?

OK where to start with this one? I was disappointed. Really disappointed.

The writing in this book is really good. Ms Ballantyne has a knack for drawing you into a story and giving you a real feel for the characters. In this instance the stand out person for me was George. He is the stereotypical gentle giant born out of a gangster family when he doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and wants nothing to do with them. His childhood is horrific but he still turns out a good one. Sort of. Circumstances lead him astray and he ends up on the run through no fault of his own.

A couple of other characters did stand out like the religious reporter whose antiquated beliefs and morals made me instantly hate him and his attitudes. Margaret is a confused individual searching for answers to years old secrets.

The story jumps from 2013 to 1985 and back again. Over and over. The most enjoyable parts for me were the older scenes with George. His character just shone through and you couldn’t help but feel for the big man.

Apart from George, the rest of it was quite a let-down to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong the actual writing is very good. It is well structured, well put together. It’s very polished. It’s also very very predictable.

I had this thing sussed from about thirty pages in. I kept thinking to myself that I must be wrong. There must be some major twist halfway through that would turn everything I thought upside down? Nope. Three quarters of the way through? Nope. It was exactly as I had thought it would be. From the very beginning. This disappointed me so much. Once I had it sussed, at the beginning, there were no thrills. There were a few “why the hell would you do that” moments but nothing to thrill me. Nothing to keep me rooted to the pages. Nothing to keep me from eventually wishing the book was shorter so I could move on to something else. I stuck it out. Purely to prove I was right.

To summarise: Good writing. Predictable plot and ultimately this spoilt it for me. If this had been a two part drama on television, I would not have bothered trying to remember to watch the second part. Sounds harsh but a thriller should thrill and surprise you and kill you with a huge twist. This unfortunately didn’t. For this, the stars come down.

General rating:

★★.5 Disappointing

Thriller rating:

★★ Not very thrilling.

You can buy Redemption Road here:

Book Synopsis:

The crash is the unravelling of Margaret Holloway. Trapped inside a car about to explode, she is rescued by a scarred stranger who then disappears. Margaret remembers little, but she's spent her life remembering little - her childhood is full of holes and forgotten memories. And now she has a burning desire to discover who she is, why her life has been shrouded in secrets, and if it has anything to do with the mysterious man who saved her life.

In a thriller that flits effortlessly between past and present, this is a harsh, gritty yet ultimately uplifting journey of an estranged father and daughter, exploring the strength of family ties and our huge capacity for forgiveness.

Lisa Ballantyne was born in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland and studied English Literature at University of St Andrews.

She lived and worked in China for many years and started writing seriously while she was there. Before being published, Lisa was short-listed for the Dundee International Book Prize.

Her debut novel, The Guilty One was translated into over 25 languages, long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and short-listed for an Edgar Allan Poe Award. The Guilty One was also the Autumn 2012 Richard and Judy Book-club Winner. Redemption Road is her new novel. She lives in Glasgow.

You can see more of Lisa at her website.

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