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Tuesday 3 January 2017

‘The Comeback’ by Bernard Taylor

Published by Duckworth Overlook,
6 October 2016. 
ISBN 978 0 71565117 9

Rosemary Paul is a celebrity past her prime. Once a famous British singer, but now in her sixties, she lives a reclusive life in a large house on the Hudson River, New York, with her much younger housekeeper/assistant Carrie Markham.

The two met when Carrie joined the cast of a theatre show in which Rosemary was the lead, a show which flopped. Since then both women have given up on their careers in show business and settled into a comfortable, companionable existence together.

When one of Rosemary’s albums is re-released the hunger for fame is reignited and Rosemary sets about trying to plan a comeback, even resorting to plastic surgery in a desperate attempt to turn back time. As the event gets closer, old jealousies start to emerge as do the true natures of the two main characters, and when one finds the events of the past rewritten there are dramatic consequences.

Strong themes resonate through the story - the lengths people will go to for fame and recognition, and how buried grudges can resurface decades after an event and lead to revenge. Both of the women in The Comeback are living in the past and wracked with regrets. Both are essentially sad lonely has-beens or never-beens that still want success even though that time has passed. The book reflects on the influence of the media and how people will change everything about themselves to become what they think the media want.

Marketed as an eerie psychological thriller, I’d suggest instead that The Comeback is more of a cosy suspense. There is no mention that the story is anything other than contemporary but for me it has the feel of an old fashioned cosy set in the 1980s or 90s. The location is mainly America and although Carrie Markham is a Texan, I had little sense of this in either the differing terminology between US and UK English, or in the dialogue. That said though, The Comeback was an enjoyable short read that kept me engrossed with the tension building to a surprising climatic last page.
Reviewer Christine Hammacott

Bernard Taylor was born in 1937 in Wiltshire. Following active service in Egypt in the Royal Air Force, he studied Fine Arts in Swindon, then at Chelsea School of Art and Birmingham University. On graduation he worked as a teacher, painter and book illustrator before going as a teacher to the United States. While there, he took up acting and writing and continued with both after his return to England. He has published ten novels under his own name, including The Godsend (1976), which was adapted for a major film, and Sweetheart, Sweetheart (1977), which Charles L. Grant has hailed as one of the finest ghost stories ever written. He has also written novels under the pseudonym Jess Foley, as well as several works of nonfiction. He has won awards for his true crime writing and also for his work as a playwright. He lives in London.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

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