Source: Review copy
Publication: 6th February 2020 from Trapeze
One fatal crash
Ben is driving on the motorway, on his usual commute to the school where he works. A day like any other, except for the crash.
Two colliding worlds
Adam has left his home for the last time. In his final despairing act, he jumps in front of Ben’s car, turning the teacher’s world upside down.
Three wrecked lives
Wracked with guilt, Ben seeks out Alice, Adam’s widow, and her 7-year-old son Max. But as he tries to escape the trauma of the wreckage, could Ben go too far in trying to ease his conscience?
Told primarily in the voices of Alice and Ben, The Wreckage starts out as a straightforward story about Ben, who accidentally kills Alice’s husband with his car. It’s such an easy thing to have done. over in the blink of an eye and Ben is, of course, traumatised. If you’ve ever had a car accident, you’ll know that any accident is in itself traumatic, never mind if, as a driver, you have been involved in an accident that has caused injury to someone.
This book made me relive those accidents I have had and made me ask myself what I would do if I were ever to be responsible for someone’s death. I can’t imagine what that might be like or whether I would cope. For sure, it would be something I could never get away from.
Ben is that driver. He’s a careful driver, as befits a schoolteacher. Always drives on the inside lane and never goes above 50. Yet he hits Adam who is at first in a vegetative coma and then dies. Ben feels so guilty. Visiting Adam in hospital, he feels a connection and a responsibility to Alice, the woman whose husband he has brought down and to her seven year old son, Max.
Ben is a bit of a fusspot, slightly old-fashioned in his ways, a tentative individual with no real close friends and little in the way of a social life, though he is liked as a teacher.
The accident impacts heavily on him and it’s not too long before we see that he is becoming a little fixated on Alice. She seems to welcome having Ben to talk to and I wondered if their shared grief might bring them together.
Alice is an interesting quandary. She clearly loved Adam, but her behaviour is just a little off. She doesn’t seem to be nurturing of Max, has an acerbic tongue and is drinking just a little too much right now.
Robin Morgan-Bentley’s writing puts just the right amount of edge into these characters. Enough so that we can see that something’s not quite right, but not quite enough for us to discern exactly what lies behind their behaviour.
What starts out as an understandable connection, develops into something a bit more sinister and the tension that existed from the moment they met starts to hit home more clearly, causing us to worry about where this is all heading. The ability to see events from both characters perspectives adds bite to an already uneasy situation.
Terrific plotting means that Bentley carefully lays out all his surprises in a way that I did not see coming and it’s no exaggeration to say that I watched in horror as this book went from disturbing scenario to full on psychological shock.
What’s also good about this book is the way the writer has put an emphasis on the mental health of the male characters and understanding their internal monologues really helps to underline the impact of their actions.
Verdict: An assured debut with complex characterisation and excellent plotting which allows the immersive narrative to drive a dual viewpoint story which we quickly come to see cannot end well. Well-crafted and precise prose adds a level of class and distinction to this above average intelligent and thought-provoking psychological thriller.
Robin Morgan-Bentley was born in London in 1987and has been making up stories since he was very little. After graduating from Cambridge University with a First Class degree in Modern and Medieval Languages, he worked at Google in London, Madrid and New York. Since 2014, he has worked with authors and actors at Audible. For the Audible Sessions podcast, he has interviewed many thriller writers, and it was his conversations with them that inspired him to start writing his stories down. Robin lives in north London with his husband, Pauly.