The past is a puzzle for everyone, a tattered collection of memory and desire. Even those people we most long to understand remain no more than a sum of those static moments we've chosen to hold them in.
This is a must-read novel for any discerning fan of high-octane, Steve Hamilton-esque thrillers, as the drama-drenched action flits the length and breadth of the heart of Europe between a spine-chilling chain of events in Morocco.
This is Jenny's fourth novel, and it's the first that she's set outside of America where she lives.
Jenny has travelled the world extensively over the years, and such a fact is blatantly obvious as
she wields an intoxicating ability to bring the places that her characters find
themselves in to life in a most brilliant manner.
Like the title suggests, the story follows a young woman suffering from amnesia, living in a convent in France. She can't remember anything of her past before the convent. When there is a massacre there, however, it becomes clear that her past is returning more than to haunt her but to outright terrorise her.
The only clue to her past that she has is a ferry ticket stub, which leads her from
France, through Spain and over into Africa.
Once there, she meets a mysterious man called Brian who she would like to trust but fears that she can't.
She's convinced that she knows him from the past, as she travels from Tangier to Marrakech in search of answers.
It seems that wherever Jenny Siler sets her action, the net result is that it's thoroughly convincing.
She lives in the city of Missoula in Montana, and this is the area in which she set her
previous masterpiece of a novel, Iced.
Even when she's writing about places much further away from home as here in Flashback, the places are described so vividly that Jenny has either been to all the places that feature in Flashback and thus knows them intimately, or she has undertaken a considerable amount of painstaking research into such locations.
The tense action scenes are always interspersed by compelling swathes of drama that help the reader to understand just how lost and alone the central character feels. Hell, she doesn't even know her real name (and goes by the name of Eve), but over time she comes to learn that whoever is after her somehow once had ties with her mother.
What is the first thing you remember? The taste of the ocean, the cold shock of snow, or the face of your mother, young as she was and is no more? The first memory I have is of the hour I came into this world. Before that, there are just the ghosts of what I've forgotten.
Some of the punishing action scenes are as hard-hitting as any a man could ever
conceive, proving for once and for all that women can embrace violence just as
readily as the macho male of the species - as and when necessary.
The author in Meg Gardiner, likewise, writes with a similar verve.
Returning to the exhilarating plot of Flashback, Eve gets out of Africa as soon as she can, managing to secure an expensive ride on an illegal boat bound for the shores of Spain. The mysterious Brian just happens to be on the boat too, whom she comes to trust in due course, before they both get a car and put the pedal to the medal in the direction of Paris, where she is due to meet somebody who might be able to give her further answers about her predicament.
To live with amnesia is to live with a suspect mind, a renegade piece of yourself that cannot be contained. Dreams may be memories, memories may be dreams, and neither one is to be trusted.
In true Bourne-affiliated tradition, the action then swerves quick-sharp to Eastern Europe as Eve and Brian race through Germany and Austria before reaching Slovakia and its Danube-sandwiching capital of Bratislava. The way that Jenny describes this place is almost whimsical, and she could clearly secure herself a job working for the Slovakian tourist board - if so wished - for this one scene-setting paragraph alone:
It had snowed heavily overnight, and from the top of Slavin Hill the Old City looked quaint as a miniature Christmas village, its baroque spires and Gothic rooftops cloaked in cottony white. The sun was shining, the sky crisp and blue, the golden crown atop the steeple of St. Martin's cathedral glistening in the morning light.
Jenny is such an accomplished writer that come the exhilarating end of her top-class novels, all of the loose ends are tied up. The endings aren't always happy ones, but at least there is a hugely satisfying sense of closure. If anything, the end to Flashback is a tear-jerking heart-breaker, a truth driven home by the very last line of a genuinely fantastic story.
(ISBN 0-75285-640-5/. First published in 2004 by Orion).
Reviews, Books - Book Recommendations by Steve Rudd
Here are some short and sweet book recommendations in place of the usual fully-fledged
reviews, quite simply because I haven't had time to write up these reviews in more detail.
The fact is that there are too many great books, and far too little time to read
them - let alone write about them in gushing retrospect.
Anyway, here's some mention of some of the books I've recently been
Reviews, Films - Films Kong By Michelle Dee
Visually stunning. Terrific pace. Jackson winds up the tension to breaking point
and never lets you go till the final frame.
This is what you would expect from a Christmas Blockbuster, but this reworking of the
original King Kong film, has so much more than the usual thrills and spills.
Naomi Watts is very striking to say the least and the ill-fated love
Reviews, Books - Complicity by Nick Quantrill Reviewed by Steve Rudd
The rain refused to ease as Coleman made his way through Queens Gardens
and on towards King Edward Street. He pulled his collar up and hurried his pace...
This is a staggeringly enthralling showcase for Hull-based writer Nick Quantrill's
unmistakable talent for writing fiction - and crime fiction, to be more precise.
He has written a fair few short stories that revolve around crime
Reviews, Books - Ian Newton - The Night Shift Reviewed By Kevin Maguire
The guy in a sharp business suit glowered as if I was mad for laughing out loud
while waiting for a flight in Washington Dulles International Airport.
No exhibitionist, I rarely laugh out loud. Indeed, I rarely read anything worth
laughing about, let alone out loud. But the story about two on-the-run robbers
holding a group of Hull factory workers hostage after a fish
Reviews, Books - East Of The Mountains By David Guterson Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Alright, so you might not have heard of the author before, but you might
actually be already familiar with some of his 'work,' as his debut novel
was called Snow Falling On Cedars... a staggering bestseller that came
to be made into a Hollywood movie starring Ethan Hawke.
Such a debut made it apparent that Guterson is one hell
of a story teller who goes to great
Reviews, Books - Scott Phillips - The Walkaway Reviewed by Steve Rudd
It is imperative that you keep your wits about when reading this novel more than with almost
any other mighty slab of fiction ever published. If you've never read Phillips' awesome debut
novel The Ice Harvest, then there's actually little point whatsoever you even making a
beeline for The Walkaway, for this mesmerisingly cool epic crime-drama is the incredible
Reviews, Books - Robert Adams - Antman (Bitterne Books) Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Antman is the latest crime novel from prolific Hull-based author Robert Adams.
It is his interest in ant behaviour that forms the heart of this book, and one
that allows him to craft a dark narrative that absorbs and terrifies in equal measure.
The novel starts with the discovery of a dead pig at a remote location in the Hull area.
Forensic investigation reveals that the animal was reduced
Reviews, Books - The Two-Bear Mambo By Joe R. Lansdale Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Lansdale certainly is one hell of a prolific author, and this is something
like the tenth novel of his that I have had the pleasure of reading.
The vast majority of his novels follow two buddies, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, as they manage - without fail - to get into all kinds of violent predicaments through being often overly stubborn and too-proud-by-half men.
Reviews, Books - Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor Reviewed by Steve Rudd
I have a responsible job and pay my taxes and keep my lawn mowed, but because I dare to be
an individual, people whisper about me behind my back. Why is life like this?
This epic novel is an absolute masterpiece that is drama-driven and hugely poignant, as it
follows a man called John Tollefson as he bumbles through his life over a pronounced period
of time, with the
Reviews, Books - Down By The River Where The Dead Men Go by George P. Pelecanos Reviewed by Steve Rudd
As the novel title must suggest, this is a crime thriller... and one of the highest order.
I first heard of the author in Pelecanos through him heaping praise on
the 'action-thriller' writing of Steve Hamilton.
Like with Hamilton's work, Pelecanos weaves an engrossing story around a
series of hugely believable and genuinely exciting set-pieces.
Interestingly, many authors
Reviews, Books - Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller Reviewed By Steve Rudd
You can get something out of a book, even a bad book.
First published in France in 1934, this extraordinary piece of writing never saw the light of day in the United States and the wider world at large until after 1961, following a mighty legal battle that resulted in the book finally being published elsewhere.
Human beings make a strange fauna and flora...More than anything
Reviews, Books - Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis Reviewed By Steve Rudd
Bret's work, it seems, is either loved or truly loathed.
Almost all of his past novels have been as controversial and as feared by some people as
hell itself, especially as Bret focuses on taboo subjects with intense abandon.
His best known book is the huge-selling American Psycho masterpiece, yet his other
work is most definitely worth reading too - if you like that kind of thing.
Alright, Less Than Zero isn't half
Reviews, Books - The Hunting Wind by Steve Hamilton Reviewed By Steve Rudd
This is the fourth thriller of Steve's that I've devoured with a heady, stance-steady vengeance. He really does reside in the top drawer of American-based thriller writers, living in New York but writing about the state in which he was raised… the often cold and bleak Northern state of Michigan, near to the border with Canada.
The previous three novels that I've read of his
Reviews, Books - Fury by Salman Rushdie Reviewed By Steve Rudd
I must live until I die.
Perhaps best known for his hugely controversial book The Satanic Verses, Indian writer
Salman Rushdie is one of the most famous writers in the world, which is understandable
when his writing is so utterly extraordinary in timbre.
Mysteries drive us all. We only glimpse their veiled faces, but their power pushes
us onward, Read more...
Reviews, Books - The Nineties by John Robb Reviewed By Steve Rudd
If you remember the Nineties... you were there!
This incredible book, written by the singer for punk rock 'n' roll band Goldblade in
truly is a breathtaking overview of an exhilarating decade.
And it isn't just music that is covered, as the always-opinionated Robb proffers his honest
opinions about anything and everything that had a