"Rough Cider" - A Well-crafted Novel
Peter Lovesey is known for his Sergeant Cribb series, as well as his series of mystery novels featuring Peter Diamond. But, he has also written a few standalone novels such as the lesser known Rough Cider. Having read and enjoyed a few of his novels from both of the earlier mentioned series, I wanted to give this one a try.
Out of the gate, Lovesey hits you between the eyes with "When I was nine; I fell in love with a girl of twenty named Barbara, who killed herself." From there, he dives into a first person narrative as told by Theo Sinclair, a professor in his fifties teaching at a small university in England, who is approached by a young woman named Alice wanting to know more about her father, an American G.I. convicted of murder in 1944. Theo, as a child, was one of the witnesses for the prosecution during the trial. And so begins a journey, for both Theo and Alice, that opens old wounds, challenges old memories, and raises new suspicions of those involved.
Let me say up front that the first couple of chapters of Rough Cider were a little slow. But, once things get rolling, this book becomes a page turner that I didn't want to put down. By using the first person narrative, Lovesey created a unique voice that provides compelling insight into Theo's state of mind as his memories of the past are brought into question, and as he analyzes his own childhood motivations. The author sends you reeling from one emotion to the other as you, one minute, feel compassion for Theo, and the other, down right hate him.
Rough Cider is not your typical "whodunit". There is no police inspector or no private detective hunts down clues, or chasing the criminal through dark alleyways. There are no forensics tests or fingerprints putting at the perpetrator. It is far more psychological in nature. And, the plot twists, as well as the surprise ending, leave you stunned.
Rough Cider is a great read, and worth the time. Remember to press on through the first few chapters, even though they seem a bit slow. It will be well worth the effort.