What’s it all about?:
Blood brothers or sworn enemies? You never forget what the fight was about…
Ben Makepeace has barely thought of Jacob since school. What he remembers is a competitive, manipulative boy, impinging on his life like a cuckoo planted in a nest.
Now Ben is the wrong side of forty with a young son to support and in need of a backer to bankroll his latest film script. A call to meet hedge-fund billionaire Victor Sheldon is promising, but there’s a surprise in store – Victor is Jacob, now firmly entrenched in a gilded world of riches and glamour.
History can cast a long shadow and while Ben believes his childhood is well over, he soon discovers the roots of the past dig deep, and some can’t let it go.
What did I think?:
I received a copy of this novel from Book Bridgr and Headline Books in return for an honest review so many thanks to them for the opportunity to read it. I’ve never actually read any of Mark Mills’ work before but a friend on GoodReads had thoroughly enjoyed his previous novels so I was quietly optimistic that I would enjoy it. The story revolves around two friends, Ben Makepeace and Jacob Hogg who became friends when at boarding school together. At that time, Jacob was a bit of an isolated child with quite neglectful parents so made himself a second home with Ben’s parents who began to look on him as a son of their own, revelling in his triumphs perhaps a bit too much for their blood son’s liking. At school however, Ben is everything that Jacob wishes he could be and there are many tumultuous years of competition, rivalry and secrets.
Moving forward to the present time, Ben is recently divorced with a thirteen year old son, Toby. He is having a fairly unsuccessful career as a screenplay writer but gets the shock of his life when he receives a call from his agent telling him that a billionaire hedge fund manager wishes to invest in his work with the aim of making it into a film. It sounds almost too good to be true but the biggest surprise is yet to come when Ben agrees a meeting with the wealthy man and it turns out to be his old friend, Jacob. He has altered his appearance, lives a lavish and enviable lifestyle and peculiarly, now goes under the name Victor Sheldon. Victor invites Ben to come and stay with him at one of his many houses, Stoneham Park where the two men re-connect and catch up on many years of history. Victor even offers Ben the job of managing his enterprises with an unbelievably large salary and reassures him that he is serious about making films from his written work. Ben may also have the opportunity of falling in love again, with Mo a sculptor on Victor’s estate.
Somehow, Ben cannot ignore the warning bells ringing – what is Victor’s motive for all this generosity? With the story switching back and forward in time from the boys somewhat strained relationship at school to the present, where all Ben’s wildest dreams seem to have come true, the reader must decide what is really going on here. Is the long shadow over the two men’s friendship from childhood just a shadow? Or, is there something a bit cleverer and malignant at work?
On some levels, this story worked really well. I loved the parts where we heard about the boys school days and enjoyed comparing the character of Jacob then to the sharp and wealthy businessman (with a different name) that he had become. I think my main problem was with the ending, to be honest. With all the tension that was built up, which was done very well by the way – I was expecting something a bit more explosive and revealing and what I got was a bit of a damp squib in reality, which was quite disappointing as it’s obvious the author can write well. I also had problems with the relationship between Ben and Mo, for some reason it didn’t really ring true and I didn’t think Mo was as strong or as interesting a character as she had the potential to be. Would I read another novel by this author? Yes, I think I probably would. I’ve heard that his first three novels are very good and he’s clearly a talented writer, I’m afraid this book just didn’t follow through for me with the ending.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):