Tyrone Keech is the stuff of nightmares. Looking back, it’s like I spend my life peering over my shoulder, checking corners, scanning streets, shops, playing fields. If he sees me before I pick him out, I get hacked across the legs, or I find myself in a headlock, or my arm is halfway up my back and I’m screaming.
One sure way of keeping readers feeling engaged is to tell a story through the eyes of an interesting and well-developed narrator. In such stories, the striking personality of the protagonist is able to shape the narrative, keeping it varied and, more importantly, keeping it unique. A fantastic example of this is Barry Litherland’s Waves Break, a contemporary thriller which is told through the distinct and quirky accounts of journalist Phil Tyler.
The story of Waves Break focusses on Phil’s unlikely friendship with a man called Wayne; the two have been close friends ever since a traumatic event from their childhood tied them together. Now, Phil feels strangely responsible for Wayne, even when he is accused of commiting an outrageous crime. Yet this novel is just as much about the past as it is about the present, and the narrative flips between Phil and Wayne’s adult relationship and the connection they had as children. This allows Litherland to describe a range of different scenes and encounters, from the tense, political exchanges of the present, to softer, more emotional scenes from the past.
Varied though it is, of course, it can be argued that the narrative of Waves Break is not always overtly original. The story can seem predictable at times, and some of the more minor characters can come across as more than a little stereotypical. This is why it is important to appreciate the voice of Phil Tyler, which takes Waves Break to another level. Phil is dry, sarcastic, and subtly hilarious. More than anything else, though, his is a voice of a real character. He is genuine and dismally honest to a point that he succeeds in grounding Litherland’s novel in an impressive level of realism. Phil’s story is wild and exciting, but it would mean very little without his calculated assumptions and dry sense of humour.
There are, of course, other reasons why Waves Break is such a successful novel. Wayne, like Phil, is a very well-developed character, and, through him, Litherland is able to sustain an interesting level of intrigue throughout the story. There is also a romantic side to Waves Break—not enough for it to overpower the main plot, but enough to keep the characters feeling genuine. It is rare that a thriller is able to do quite so much at the same time as it weaves an impressive and dramatic plotline, but Waves Break does just this.
Litherland’s novel is climatic, emotional, and real. With a fascinating narrator and an interesting storyline, this is a novel that should not be taken for granted. Waves Break is the first novel in a new series of books that follow the adventures of Phil Tyler, and this reviewer feels certain that she will not be alone in anxiously following along with whatever Litherland has in store for his readers next.
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Note from the reviewer: I want to disclose the fact that I personally proofread Waves Break before it was published. I have not let this influence my review in any way and have refrained from commenting on areas where my work may have impacted the novel, including grammar and writing style.