Review: GHOSTLINES by Nick Gadd

Ghostlines - Nick, Gadd16342fI somehow missed this Victorian Premier’s Award winning novel when it was released a few years ago but am very glad to have happened upon a copy now.

At its core is Philip Trudeau, once a high-flying financial journalist and hero to impressionable students who has fallen on hard times. He lost his job at a prestigious newspaper and even did some time in prison and is now working – barely – at a suburban rag that does little more than have a few articles around all the real estate advertisements. When a young boy is hit by a train and killed Trudeau at first only feigns interest in telling his story. But the boy’s death and its apparent links to other people and events seem to follow Trudeau and compel him to investigate, no matter how much cheap grog he drinks to forget.

At first I thought I knew exactly where this book was going to go with its alcoholic loner central figure but Gadd was soon surprising. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that there are actual ghosts in GHOSTLINES and I didn’t mind at all though I normally eschew all things mystical. This paranormal element is not overwhelming though and it does add suspense in terms of forcing the reader to consider what is real and what isn’t.

Trudeau is in some ways the typical protagonist of a crime novel but he is also a lot more believable than man of his brethren. When we learn why his career, and his personal life, have crumbled, turning to the bottle seems like a sensible, if unhealthy, choice. I suppose I felt a mixture of pity for and annoyance with him for much of the book but I could completely understand why he was behaving the way he did. And we do get to see that the path of self-destruction can be…at least temporarily interrupted if not entirely abandoned…in Gadd’s deft depiction of Trudeau’s eventual commitment to investigating the story that is demanding to be told.

GHOSTLINES ends up offering a complex and compelling tale depicting an anti hero’s version of redemption set against a backdrop which involves art, fraud and financial shenanigans in a very recognisable and quite evocative Melbourne. An absolute treat to read.

Publisher: Scribe [2008]
ISBN: 9781921372049
Length: 283 pages
Format: paperback
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4 thoughts on “Review: GHOSTLINES by Nick Gadd

  1. Bernadette – I’m not usually much of a one for paranormal elements in crime fiction either, but I do like the ‘character study’ appeal of this. And I want to know what happened to that boy.


  2. Pingback: Books of the month: January 2014 | Reactions to Reading

  3. Bernadette, I am pleased to see Nick Gadd’s terrific debut on your radar. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick not long after the book was released. And I predicted – accurately, as it turned out – that Ghostlines would win the 2009 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Book.


  4. Thanks for the review Bernadette, and the kind comments Margot and Angela. It’s nice to know that people are still enjoying the book after all this time. The supernatural element was a bit controversial for some – at least one publisher turned down the novel because I wouldn’t take the ‘ghosts’ out. Glad I didn’t!


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