The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish is the type of book that throws in an extra twist, just as you think you have things worked out.
In many ways it felt as if the narrative was ‘finished’ a number of times before it was. I kept looking at how many more pages remained wondering how on earth Candlish would eke the book out further. But… it’s because she takes the story in several directions we don’t expect… though wonder later how we didn’t predict their occurrence.
The Other Passenger
by Louise Candlish
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
On the morning of Monday 23rd December, Jamie Buckby takes the commuter riverboat from his home in St Mary’s, southeast London, to work in Central London, noting that his good friend and neighbour Kit Roper has not turned up for the 7.30am service they usually catch together.
At the London Eye, where he disembarks for his job in a café behind the South Bank Centre, Jamie is met by the police. Kit has been reported missing by his wife. As Jamie is taken in for questioning, he discovers someone saw him arguing with Kit on the boat home late on Friday night.
The other passenger believes Jamie committed murder.
Weirdly I assumed our lead character was female for the first part of the story. It wasn’t until Jamie’s full name (James) is used that I was thrown a little; realising the narrator (I) was a male character rather than female. I was briefly intrigued…. wondering if I’d assumed the lead to be female because the author is; because I am; or because I read a lot of books with female protagonists?
As it happens I don’t care whether my lead character is male or female, though wonder if male readers feel the same about female leads.
I liked Jamie. He’s flawed and he felt quite real. He knows his partner of a decade (Clare) wants more for him. He feels he’s not pulling his weight financially but it’s the reaction of new ‘friends’ Melia and Kit and their obvious envy of their lifestyle that makes Jamie self-conscious about the fact he’s able to live a grand house yet able to continue working in a cafe on minimal wage.
It made me ponder if the disparity existed in his previous career—presumably earning more and perceived by some (including Clare) as more suitable. Jamie tells us he’s happy though. Well, with everything other than his commute via the Tube into the cafe each day because he’s claustrophobic which is why he eventually decides to start catching the river bus with Kit.
Clare has introduced Jamie to the young couple a year before the book opens. Melia works in Clare’s firm. The couple is described as quite striking. Both wannabe actors forced into other options. They’re about twenty years younger than Clare and Jamie and, in many ways, unlikely friends.
The men don’t necessarily bond but their decision to catch the river bus together each day sets up a relationship and they eventually form a friendship with two other commuters. I was reminded of my old life when I caught the bus each day and waited with a small group at a nearby bus stop. We’d chat, often discovering quite obscure things about each others’ lives.
As was the case in the last book I read and reviewed, The House on Fripp Island, this is very much themed around the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Clare was born with money so kinda takes it for granted. Jamie appreciates it but Kit and Melia seem OTT obsessed with money and their lack of it. They’re basically resentful of those with ‘more’—whether earned or inherited—almost seeming as if they believe they ‘deserve’ more themselves.
Of course at the crux of this book is the disappearance of Kit. Candlish spends time introducing us to the two couples – all through the eyes of Jamie. Kit’s already gone missing when the book opens and Jamie’s being interviewed by the police so Candlish does a good job at segueing from an interview question to events of the past year.
I enjoyed this approach and the unfurling of the backstory but felt there was possibly a few gaps in relation to Jamie’s past and his family, and (to some extent) his relationship with Clare.
Eventually Jamie’s telling of the past catches up to the present and things become twisty. I must say I was both surprised yet not, by the direction the book takes.
Normally I’d have a sense of dissatisfaction with the way this plot pans out, but…. for reasons I can’t reveal (of course) I didn’t. Some of our characters change quite significantly throughout the course of the narrative. I know Candlish does this on purpose but it meant my care factor (re their fates) had dwindled by its conclusion. As a result I was kinda unmoved by some of the final ‘reveals’, particularly when compared to the startling plot-turns beforehand.
The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and available in late June 2020.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.