Death of a Bookseller by Alice Slater – Review
By Sandra Callard
This original and obsessively good new novel revolves mainly around two young women who work as booksellers in a shop in Walthamstow. Laura and Roach are opposites. Laura is pretty level-headed, but Roach, known by her surname, is a particularly difficult woman to get on with – and it’s not long before her traits are affecting Laura.
Where Laura loves the customers, the authors and the shop itself, Roach becomes more of an oddity, easily jealous and very vulnerable. She loves to follow people just to see if she can, and when she discovers a crime in Laura’s past, quite simply, life will never be the same for either of them.
All the chapters in this book are entitled either Laura or Roach, as the jealousy of Roach encroaches darkly on the life of the pleasant Laura. The story is cleverly and thrillingly written, and, characterwise, is a perfectly laid-out scenario for a slowly mounting drama. It is also beautifully reinforced by the lesser characters, whose appearances are equally as important as the two principals. As the story is set just before Christmas, when most people are being particularly nice or kind to others, Roach starts to stand out like a sore thumb.
The story highlights in depth the various relationships of the characters as they move around the bookshop and its environs, and a tentative feeling of drama builds as Roach becomes more and more obsessed with Laura, her home and her way of living. It is extremely difficult to convey a slowly rising tension by the written word and many writers fail in this respect, but Alice Slater has managed to do this wonderfully, without losing an ounce of tension, as the narrative begins to scale the heights of Roach’s obsession.
Roach is compelling in her full and offensive personality, that carries with it the whisper of sorrow for the awful person she has become, and beggars the oft-asked question, is a person born bad or has something made them that way? Who knows, but Roach has developed into a truly despicable person and appears to want no salvation from herself.
Death of a Bookseller is as near perfect a thriller on paper as you can get, and I was totally immersed in the story, the characters and indeed the outcome. Alice Slater is a name to watch.
‘Death of a Bookseller’ by Alice Slater is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99 hardback