“Burial” Neil Cross (Simon and Schuster) – novel review

Burial Neil CrossNathan’s former friend-of-a-friend Bob turns up one night warning that, “They are digging up the woods.”  Six words that tell you not only are both men hiding a very dark secret but it’s now a race against time for both to embark on some serious damage limitation. 

Bob and Nathan met when Nathan was a gopher on a radio show and Bob was a student studying the supernatural ostensibly with the aim of debunking such beliefs.  At a party, to avoid the current girlfriend Nathan is planning on making an ex, he, Bob and another woman head off in a car taking an unmarked lane into the woods.  After leaving to answer a call of nature, Nathan returns to find the woman dead.  All three had plenty to drink and didn’t go easy on the lines of coke so, not thinking clearly, the two men concoct a plan and agree never to see each other again.

In mitigation, Nathan endures a painful transition back to an appearance of a normal life though is left scared of the dark.  Four years as a salesman and he meets an estate agent whose elder sister is missing.  Dating turns to marriage and plans for children when Bob re-enters Nathan’s life.  Luckily his wife, Holly, is out.

Thus far, the narrative’s stayed with Nathan but Bob’s re-emergence gives readers the chance to catch up with Bob and try and piece together what actually happened that night.  Neil Cross has written for the BBC drama “Spooks” and the story in “Burial” gathers pace as readers have to decide whose version of events is more reliable and what motives characters have for the way they behave and what they tell each other.

The risk in choosing a narrating character with a murderous secret in his past is that some readers won’t see past the secret.  But Nathan is given chance to put things right or at least comfort those bereaved and help them move on.  Can Nathan redeem himself or will he be forever defined by one event in his past?  It’s the questions, rather than the characters, that linger when the book is closed.


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