By Michel Vimal Du Monteil (Hawkeye Books, Australia)
I received an advanced copy from Hawkeye in exchange for an unbiased review
Paul, originally French but settled for many years in Australia, is a wealthy, retired businessman. He reads that ‘a massive swell [is] about to hammer Sydney’s beaches’ and sets off with his surfboard to catch some waves. The idea of surfing at all, let alone in a cyclone (a cyclone! Is he mad?!) makes my stomach clench. It’s a strong start to a novel that maintains – indeed ratchets up – the tension throughout.
Of course – of course Paul, I could have told you, it was madness. MADNESS – the worst happens. Paul disappears in the huge waves. Jill, his wife of over 20 years, doesn’t even have his body to mourn.
Paul has always been an adventurer and has left instructions that in the event of his disappearance their four adult Godchildren – go-getting trader Sandra, hedonistic traveller Matthieu, flirtatious fisherman Grant and gentle set designer Brett – should gather together so Paul’s lawyer can reveal something important.
Paul has also requested the presence of a stranger – a young woman from Hobart called Julie. Why is she there? How do this eclectic mix of people fit together? What does Paul want to reveal to them?
Who, above all, is Paul Lambert?
The story of those left behind as they come to terms with the secrets exposed by Paul’s disappearance alternates with the story of Paul’s own journey: he isn’t dead but pulled out of the water and abandoned to his fate with a head injury and amnesia. The police are suspicious. Can he escape them long enough to find out who he is? The journey will take him across Australia and back to his beginnings. Will he like the person he was then? Can he ever be the person he was before the accident?
Where There is a Will is a very satisfying, accessible read. The story kept on the right side of credible whilst not being predictable and the revelations kept me turning the pages. I engaged with the trials and tribulations of all the characters, who were well rounded and believable. It felt like being part of a family – if anything, I would have liked a longer novel and a chance to get to know them all better. Most of all, I really wanted Paul to find his way back to Jill without being too changed by his experiences – you’ll have to read the book to find out whether he did.
Technically, I liked the way that the point of view changed in some scenes – sometimes we are close to Paul’s internal thoughts, sometimes we see him from the perspective of people who don’t know him very well: the police, or people in a bar. It adds to the sense that Paul is many things to many people and, together with the vivid descriptions of Australia, means I’m left with a strong visual memory of the story.
I can imagine this as a TV series, and it’s certainly one I would watch.