Disclaimer: I had the very great pleasure of proofreading Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) before it was published. I have tried not to let this influence my review and have refrained from commenting on areas where my work may have impacted the novel (such as grammar and writing style).
Whenever I read a thriller, I want it to feel real. I want the plot to sound plausible, and I want the characters to be believable—and, well, if there’s one thing I can say about Barry Litherland’s Waves Break (on Unkown Shores), it’s that it feels very real.
The story is as much about the past as it is about the present; it focusses on journalist Phil Tyler, who has a very unlikely friendship with a man called Wayne. The two have been close friends ever since a traumatic event from their childhood tied them together. Now, Phil feels strangely responsible for Wayne, and he does his best to stand by him, even when Wayne is accused of committing an outrageous crime. Phil doesn’t want to believe that Wayne could be capable of something like that—but how can he be sure? The novel flips between Phil and Wayne’s adult relationship and the connection they had as children, and, as the truth about the present is revealed, the past is also thrown under a spotlight.
Tyrone Keech is the stuff of nightmares. Looking back, it’s like I spend my life peering over my shoulder, checking corners, scanning streets, shops, playing fields. If he sees me before I pick him out, I get hacked across the legs, or I find myself in a headlock, or my arm is halfway up my back and I’m screaming.Waves Break (on Unknown Shores) | Chapter Eighteen
The thing I liked most about Waves Break was Phil himself. I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to keep a reader engaged is to tell a story through the eyes of an interesting narrator, and this is exactly what this novel excels at. Phil’s distinct, quirky narrations turn an ordinary story into something much more successful. This means that while the plot of Waves Break can seem predictable at times, it is made interesting through Phil’s narration. He has a dry, sarcastic sense of humour that is subtly hilarious. More than anything else, though, his is a voice of a real character. He is genuine and dismally honest to the point that he succeeds in grounding Litherland’s novel in an impressive level of realism. The story is exciting, but it would mean very little without Phil’s calculated assumptions and dry sense of humour.
I also enjoyed the emotional side of Waves Break. The journey into Phil’s past continually impacts everything that takes place in the present; it makes it matter, because, honestly, one story would hold very little power without the other. As a result, I would have to argue that if you’re looking for a simple crime thriller, where the emphasis is on courtroom dramas or complex crime networks, this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a story that takes you inside the protagonist’s mind, recounting what is, in reality, a very personal, climactic journey, then you should certainly consider picking up a copy of Waves Break.
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