Just outside the city – any city, every city – is a grand, spacious but affordable apartment building called The Beresford. There’s a routine at The Beresford. For Mrs May, every day’s the same: a cup of cold, black coffee in the morning, pruning roses, checking on her tenants, wine, prayer and an afternoon nap. She never leaves the building. Abe Schwartz also lives at The Beresford. His housemate, Sythe, no longer does. Because Abe just killed him. In exactly sixty seconds, Blair Conroy will ring the doorbell to her new home and Abe will answer the door. They will become friends. Perhaps lovers. And, when the time comes for one of them to die, as is always the case at The Beresford, there will be sixty seconds to move the body before the next unknowing soul arrives at the door. Because nothing changes at The Beresford, until the doorbell rings…
Right everyone, time to gird your loins and prepare for the latest book from the maniacally brilliant and twisted genius that is Will Carver. I confess to always experiencing a frisson of excitement when the time comes to read and review his latest release, because like life itself, you never know quite what to expect, and strange things always lay in store. Especially if you were ever foolish enough to countenance a move to The Beresford…
Let’s start with a quote which perfectly sums up the type of person you will readily encounter in the confines of The Beresford itself, a grand apartment building overseen by the mercurial and disturbing landlady, Mrs May. “The people who lived at The Beresford did not belong. They had that in common. The kind of people who wanted to sit in the centre of the circle but existed on the side of a square. They were outside. They floated on the periphery.” I have long been fascinated by books that focus on people residing in boarding houses or hotels like Patrick Hamilton’s The Slaves of Solitude or William Trevor’s Mrs Eckdorf In O’Neill’s Hotel in which people’s lives are given a vein of impermanence in the sense of them waiting to move on, or helplessly trapped in a kind of residential purgatory. This was exactly the sense that I got from this book too, where characters assume a kind of holding position (some shorter than others) waiting to make a leap into life different from where they came from, or egotistically think themselves destined for greater things, or as a short term escape from trauma or trouble. Carver captures perfectly the thwarted dreams and disappointment of some, and much to the twisted amusement of this reader cuts down the perky optimism of others with aplomb. Most of the characters are intensely dislikeable which kind of makes this conveyor belt of kill and replace at times ghoulishly enjoyable, but as always with Carver tinged with a dark pathos that sometimes pulls you up short as you begin to enjoy the inner workings and tribulations of body disposal, and the countdown to another killing. As the residents come and go, and come and go, on the conveyor belt of carnage, Carver still rounds each character out focusing on their dreams, ambitions, fears and the adage that should be carved above the entrance to The Beresford, kill or be killed…
Aside from his always astute and well depicted characters who harbour between them all the quintessential frailties and triumphs of what being human entails, from love, to hate, to despair and the fragile hope of redemption and happiness, there is again ample room for Carver to take us on several of his existential ruminations too. You can feel him shaking his fists to the sky as he takes us on a whirlwind tour of the greatest afflictions of society as he fires pithy arrows at the scarcity of depth and intelligence in humankind, the culture of fakery, the damage wreaked by religion on people’s wellbeing and life choices, the meat industry, death and so on. I usually find myself nodding in sage agreement at various points throughout his books, as his barbed observations and exposure of the most facile elements of human experience are always shockingly, or amusingly spot on. I really enjoy these little flights of metaphysical darkness that Carver intersperses his books with which set him apart not only as a writer but also as someone who genuinely gives a care to what a state the world is in, cutting through the white noise with sharp and incisive truths.
For those people out there who belittle crime fiction as a genre, and trust me I meet them every day, books like this, and writers like this, undermine every negative observation that is made of crime fiction. The Beresford is not only an intriguing crime mystery, but is textured with a rich and bountiful use of language and description. The characters are little microcosms of everything that troubles us or shapes us as humans, and with the little detours into the facile and dangerous elements and beliefs that arise in life itself, there is a punchy intelligence running through that adds another striking layer of difference to the book. As always, highly recommended.
Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Will’s latest title published by Orenda Books, Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)
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Thanks for the blog tour support x
Thanks Anne- absolutely loved this one 😍
[…] previously reviewed Will Carver’s The Beresford this year, we are being spoiled in true ambassador fashion with another from the mercurial mind of […]