A suitcase of stolen cash has brought three criminals together.
One has a bullet in his side.
One has blood on his hands.
One has vengeance on his mind.
Each has run from their past. Each will now fight for their future.
Chris Womersley’s previous UK release ‘Bereft’ was easily one of my favourite literary fiction reads of the last year, with its beautiful prose and thought provoking examination of human relationships, so I am delighted that Quercus have released this, originally published in Australia in 2007, to bolster his recognition here in the UK. A prizewinning and stylish noir thriller, ‘The Low Road’, transcends the crime thriller genre and is a sublime example of literary crime fiction, defined by its lyrical quality and its power to manipulate our empathy towards the three essentially criminal protagonists.
Opening within the confines of a rundown motel in an unnamed location, Lee is seeking sanctuary after making off with a suitcase stuffed with cash, having received a bullet wound in the course of his actions. Wild, a disgraced medical practitioner with a reliance on drugs is also holed up there, having deserted his marital home, after his malpractice has come to light. Through the machinations of brassy motel owner, Sylvia, the men enter each others lives, and having found out that Lee is being pursued by the sinister Josef, to recover the contents of the suitcase, the two go on the run together, as Lee tries to reach what he perceives to be the relative safety of his sister’s home. As Lee’s physical condition deteriorates, Wild endeavours to seek out an old medical colleague of his to attend to Lee but fate has more in store for them than they could possibly imagine…
As their journey propels them further into danger, herein lies the mastery of Womersley’s writing, and his innate ability to twist our preconceptions of the character’s criminal activities. As the relationship between Lee and Wild progresses, you find your empathy aroused despite your initial impressions, and as Womersley unveils the layers to their essentially damaged personas, he carefully constructs a poignant and thoughtful examination of a relationship forged by the necessity of escape and redemption. As they overcome their mutual distrust of each other and strengthen their bond, fuelled by the pursuance by Josef, who himself is an incredibly interesting character working at the behest of others, Womersley draws us into their strengths and failings, through his sublime prose and dialogue that immerses us completely in the very human weaknesses of this triumvirate. Equally, Womersley highlights the sense of survival that can arise in the bleakest of circumstances, and conversely, how this bleakness can extinguish hope in others, as events overtake our three to a heartwrenching denouement.
Womersley is to my mind, an exceptional writer, with comparisons to Jim Crace or Ron Rash, with his fluidity of prose and his use of imagery. Every scene is so easy to conjure up in the reader’s imagination, and he imbues the novel with a sense of unease, through every change of location. The world ticks on around the characters, but the situation they find themselves in is suffocating with tension, despite their efforts to escape and totally immerses the reader in their trials. This is a sublime and perfectly constructed literary crime thriller that I hope many among you will discover for yourselves.
Visit Chris Womersley’s website here: http://www.chriswomersley.com/chriswomersley.com/Home.html
(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)