One way to be a big fish is to swim in a small pond. I have to admit that this was what the cover blurb on my copy of Back Up by Paul Colize brought to mind: “the bestselling Belgian crime novel about an English rock ‘n’ roll band”. I tried to set that on one side and pay attention to the gig but, at the end, I felt it was a largely underwhelming performance; a small fish after all.
Although I read a fair amount of crime novels, I have to admit that most of them involve official investigators and conclude with the central crime largely solved and the danger neutralised – the ‘police procedural’ end of the scale. I recognise this as quite different – much more of a conspiracy thriller. However, I also had some objective reasons for being less keen. Colize tries to work together a number of distinct stories, several of which turn out to be dead ends for their protagonists, as well as both past and present threads for the central character. This ‘hero’ suffers a major accident and spends the majority of the novel experiencing ‘locked in syndrome’. Perhaps we are meant to share his frustration?
I did feel frustration but it never managed to turn into real sympathy for any of the characters. Possibly the magic of the original writing is lost in the translation but I read a lot of excellent translated fiction so that probably isn’t the case. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between an ambitious plan that has not been fully realised and the fact that, even it was, it probably still wouldn’t be my thing. Therefore, rather half-heartedly, I’d suggest it is a good one to read if you want to be able to say that you’ve read a Belgian crime thriller with some musical notes.