Orion | 2019 (13 June) | 302p | Review copy | Buy the book
Standedge Tunnel is the longest canal tunnel in England. It’s something of a tourist attraction in the summer and one season tour guide Matthew took his five friends into the tunnel. Six went in and only five came out. Matthew was found unconscious on the boat, no trace of the other five was found. So what happened to the Standedge Five? The local police chief has a good idea. He’s the father of two of the missing people and he’s adamant that Matthew killed them and everyone agrees with him. But when author and former journalist Robert Ferringham receives a call from Matthew, begging for his help, strangely suggesting he has a message from Robert’s wife who is herself missing, Robert feels compelled to go to Standedge to find answers. Because, while everyone is convinced that Matthew is the killer, not one person can explain how how he did it.
I loved Chris McGeorge’s thriller Guess Who and so I grabbed the chance to read Now You See Me. This author is proving himself to be the master of irresistible plots, puzzles and tension. Now You See Me Has such a fantastic premise. It’s almost like the locked room concept – someone is murdered in a room but no-one could have got in – but, instead of a room we have a creepy, black tunnel that takes hours to travel through on a boat, and which, rumour has it, is haunted. Robert tries to stare into the darkness through the gate that locks the tunnel away through the winter and he is terrified. There are parts of this novel that are genuinely frightening.
The thriller’s setting is excellent. It’s set in a small community, where most people congregate in the pub and/or in the church. Many people have been affected by the tragedy in the tunnel and nobody wants to talk about it, even while they grieve. The Standedge Five, all students, are almost regarded as saints, as the best that this village could offer to the world. The anger towards Matthew is palpable. And here’s Robert stirring things up. I did enjoy Robert’s character. He suffers moments of excruciating embarrassment but this soon turns into something much worse. Plus there’s the fact that he’s haunted by his missing wife. Robert is in limbo every bit as much as the parents of the missing students are. He’s a sympathetic character and we warm to him.
I must admit that I thought the novel would progress in a different way to the one in which it did and this did rather affect my reading of the second half of the book but, clearly, this is my problem! While I did find elements of the novel a little implausible, and I questioned some characters’ behaviour, I was thoroughly entertained by Now You See Me and I think that the character of Robert Ferringham is drawn so beautifully. The author is also a master of creating atmosphere and the menace of the tunnel is a brilliant concept. I look forward to reading anything that Chris McGeorge writes in the future. He’s now one of those whose novels will go straight to the top of the pile.