Eli Hagin can’t finish anything. He hates his job but can’t seem to quit. He doesn’t want to be with his girlfriend, but doesn’t know how end things with her, either. Eli wants to write a novel, but he’s never taken a story beyond the first chapter. Eli also has trouble separating reality from fiction. When his best friend kills himself, Eli is motivated, for the first time in his life, to finally end something himself, just as Mike did. Except sessions with his therapist suggest that Eli’s most recent ‘first chapters’ are not as fictitious as he had intended and a series of text messages that Mike received before his death point to something much, much darker…
And so with shoulders firmly back and pants hitched up, it’s time to brace ourselves for another journey into the marvellous, acerbic and delightfully twisted world of Will Carver. As Forrest Gump once said, “Will Carver is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” But they changed it in the film. Shame.
So with no further ado, welcome to Suicide Thursday, a tale of infidelity, death, thwarted ambition, and all points in between, which felt different in tone and structure to Carver’s usual railing against the world, but definitely no less satisfying for that.
Feeling more linear in structure than usual, despite the oscillating timeline, Carver has constructed a story which focuses much more on one man’s machinations on life, love and the sheer mindless boredom of the 9-5, “my soul has been systematically ripped from me piece by piece on a daily basis,” Eli Hagin has a hankering to devote his time to writing, if he can get past the endless first chapters he produces,
“Okay, in a way I’m a writer but not really. I write first chapters that can’t possibly lead anywhere because the stories are full of Dutch midgets and suicide and homeless people and lobotomised transexuals and superstition and mirage…pathetic ten-page novelty tales to hide the fact that I actually have nothing poignant to say, “
and also harbouring an urge to ditch his girlfriend, if he can find the right time and level of pre- total inebriation. He talks to an imaginary therapist and is still coming to terms with the death of his mother. Yes, Eli’s world is a dark and dissatisfying place, and then his best friend commits suicide, but in Eli’s confused world of fact and fiction, is he entirely blameless and can this all really be a catalyst for the change he seeks?
I was very much torn in my opinion of Eli, who gravitates between states of infuriating inertia to manic self-questioning, and seemingly pie in the sky plans of action. He’s not a particularly likeable individual, which I can say is true of the majority of the characters in the book, but nevertheless we are cajoled and corralled into liking him a little bit better as the book goes on. He has some moments of pure genius with no major spoilers, making the kind of speech you would really like to hear at a funeral, and dispensing a degree of revenge in his workplace amongst other things, and as they say, still waters run deep in this character. Just how deep gradually unfolds as we begin to navigate the fictional worlds that Eli creates, and his deteriorating relationships with pretty much everyone.
His girlfriend Jackie arouses in the reader a feeling of exasperation, as she hitches her truck to two unsuitable men, oh, and God too, and has a cat, Descartes, who exhibits an equal disdain for her as his human counterparts. I felt throughout that she needed some kind of wake up call, and thinking maybe she should have teamed up with another female character, who makes a beautiful little cameo in this book, as part of the growing Carver Cabinet of Characterful Curiosities. As her and Eli’s existence as individuals and as a couple vacillates between grumbling dissatisfaction and a sense of resigned acceptance, there are many more secrets and lies that are revealed throughout the course of the book thrown up by the suicide of their best friend Mike…
Obviously, no Carver book would be complete without the occasional venomous observation of the futility of life, religion, and the folly and the bitter taste of betrayal in human relationships as friends or lovers. I like the little allusions to his previous books peppered throughout this one, and the way that he produces a self-mocking element into the book with Eli’s floundering attempts at literary greatness, and the questionable prowess of writers to produce something truly meaningful and relevant. With all this in mind, Suicide Thursday proves itself to be a much more measured and meditative book than some of his previous books where he allows a much stronger vibe of storytelling and character building with a less, admittedly always enjoyable, maniacal edge to this one. Yes, there’s still the crazy, but a little bit dialled down crazy, to allow room for this one to take the reader in another direction, and to enhance further Carver’s growing reputation as one of the more flexible, inventive, imaginative and boundary pushing writers within crime fiction today. How can this one be not highly recommended as usual?
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 titles are The Beresford, Psychopaths Anonymous and The Daves Next Door. 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.
(With thanks to Orenda Boos for the ARC)
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