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Saturday 3 March 2018

‘Back Up’ by Paul Colize

Translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie.
Published by Point Blank,
1 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-1-78607-110-1(TPB)

18th March, 1967, and four members of the same rock band die in ‘accidents’ hundreds of miles apart. The families hire an investigator, then persuade a journalist to look into the case... but how does a locked-in syndrome patient in Brussels, 2010, hold the key to their deaths?

This cleverly-constructed novel moves between past and present throughout. The past sections describe the deaths first, and the investigations, but the intervening present sections focus on Dominique, a physiotherapist at the hospital where the locked-in patient is slowly recovering, and his growing relationship with the patient. Between these are sections in italics, the voice of the person who claims responsibility for the four deaths, and we quickly learn that he, Jacques Berger, is the locked-in person. Berger was a talented self-taught drummer obsessed by rock and roll. Through him, the author takes us on a vividly-evoked journey through the music of the Sixties – the London section was particularly good, with accounts of the pill-popping lifestyles of many musicians, and concerts by The Who, Hendrix and Clapton. We come to understand Jacques, and sympathise with him – and gradually find out that the author is playing with the ‘murderer’s diary’ convention. The deaths are far more sinister than they seemed ... As Dominique learns more about his patient, he too joins in the investigation, leading to a final surprise ending. The short chapters keep the pages turning, and there’s never any confusion about where you are in time. I did find the italics sections ungrateful to read, which was a pity, as they carried the main narrative – maybe a different font would have been better. The storyline was so convincing that I looked one key incident up, and found it was real ... maybe the novel’s a journalist’s way of getting the truth out there?

A vivid and clever story that takes us back to the musical scene swinging Sixties, but has a deeper plot at its heart. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Paul Colize was born in Brussels in 1953. He is the author of ten novels including Back Up, which was shortlisted for the Victor Rossel Prix and the Prix Saint-Maur en Poche. He lives in Waterloo, Belgium.


Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book
Death in Shetland Waters

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review, Marsali! Really glad you enjoyed the book.