Source: Review copy
Publication: 7 April 2019 from Muswell Press
Morning rush hour on the London tube. Laurie Bateman is on her way to work when she witnesses a terrible accident. Only later does she realise that what she has seen is potentially much more sinister.
Compelled to investigate, Laurie breaks into the Underground at night to look for clues. The ambush comes out of nowhere, forcing Laura to flee for her life through pitch black tunnels and deserted stations.
The hunter has become the hunted.
Close to the Edge begins with a fast forward chapter and the following chapters consider what happened in the run up to those events, before returning to the present day.
Laurie Bateman is working in London as a PA/Assistant at a financial services company in Mayfair. Originally from Somerset, she’s come to London after the death of her mum, something that still dwells on her mind. That’s why she notices when a man at on the Tube platform smiles at her and indicates by way of a gesture that she has a smudge on her nose. Seconds later he has gone from the platform and onto the tracks below; he is dead.
The Police are considering it a suicide, but Laurie can’t put him out of her mind. She keeps thinking about him; remembering small details of their brief, silent interchange. She remembers that he had something in his hand just before he went, but that it wasn’t in his hand when she later saw the body lying there.
Soon she is sure he wouldn’t have smiled at her that way if he was going to jump and she is drawn to investigate. Feeling alone and somewhat bereft she is glad to meet a handsome chap who listens sympathetically to her story and offers to help her find what it was the man was carrying. Before long, they are creeping into the into the tube network in the dead of night. Not the cleverest of moves, perhaps, and so it proves when she and her new boyfriend are ambushed by two thugs.
After a narrow escape, Laurie has only just begun to recover when further troubles befall her. A series of seemingly unrelated unpleasant incidents start to build up into a picture of very real trouble.
Returning home to Somerset, Laurie continues her research and investigations, helped by her flatmate and her father, not realising that she has stumbled onto a truly despicable series of crimes that could put everyone she loves in jeopardy.
Toby Faber’s novel is redolent with the kind of detail and atmosphere of London’s Tube network that both feels realistic and would also put you off ever travelling by tube again. His plot is rooted in the financial world, but his antagonists come straight from the world of East End gangsters.
In a fast moving, action fuelled thriller, where dead bodies abound and torture comes as second nature (though not terribly graphic, gruesome enough), and the danger is all too palpable. The plot, while really interesting, does however require quite a suspension of disbelief, and some of the characters’ actions seem too far-fetched to ring true.
I really liked the whole idea of this book and I enjoyed the pace and the key plot elements, but I found that the actions of some of the main characters sometimes made me want to scream and throw things at them.
Verdict: Close to the Edge is an easy and pretty enjoyable read, even if not quite for me.
Toby Faber was a banker and management consultant before joining the family firm in 1996. He was MD of Faber for four years and remains on the board; he is also chairman of Faber Music. He has written two highly praised works of non-fiction, Stradivarius and Fabergé’s Eggs, this is his first novel. He lives in London with his family.
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