Anthony McGowan (2004) Stag Hunt (Hardcover). Hodder & Stoughton, 336 pages. ISBN-10: 0340830441, ISBN-13: 978-0340830444.
* Price: £12.99 from Amazon, but I got it for a fraction of this at a discount bookshop.
* Genre: Fiction / Thriller / Mystery
* The Author:
Anthony McGowan was born in Manchester in 1965. Now he is a full-time writer, but he also has gained a PhD in Philosophy, worked as a nightclub bouncer, an Open University tutor, a journalist and a civil servant. Stag Hunt is his first novel and targeted at an adult readership. Since then, however, he has turned to teen fiction and he is pretty successful at this. The school environment and school memories seem to have a big influence on his stories.
* The Book:
The author plays with words; 'Stag hunt' is not about male deer. It is about revenge and the worst kind of bullying: a boy at a rich boarding school was sexually molested by 5 other boys. Many years later, as an adult, after he kills a former school teacher, he plans to kill his former molesters one by one during a bachelor weekend party taking place at a remote mansion, the 'Pellinor House'.
* My reality:
The book is nicely bound in red with a cream paper jacket. It is divided into 32 chapters but it's not as long as it seems, because the font is large and clear.
The main idea is very powerful and I expected a tough revenge story full of action and twists and turns, an emotional roller-coaster, and, given the author's academic credentials, some opportunities for a deeper analysis on bullying, kid psychology and on why those kids would commit such an awful act. I am afraid that the author misses these excellent opportunities and this is very disappointing for the reader.
Instead, he puts a lot of weight on the narrator/main character, who is presented as a messed-up loser: he is not happy with his life or his job, and we find out that the reason he ended up like this is because of something wrong he felt he had done when he was young in Tunisia, many years before. So, the main problem of the book for me is that instead of sticking to and expanding his main story, the author tries to create a "multi-layer" thriller, but all he succeeds is to digress too much.
Although, on the plus side, he lets us guessing about the killer's ID until the end, and his other characters are quite lively - albeit snobbish upper class, superficial and annoying - his main character is dull and boring. There is also some romance in the book, which has absolutely no reason to be. It feels very detached from the main plot and just another of the author's digressions. The same applies to a narrated ghost story which serves no real purpose in the plot.
In brief, the author has some interesting ideas on rape and child abuse, but he does not manage to link them. It feels like he constantly tries to make a point, say something, but never manages to finish his thoughts and bring them all together to a satisfying conclusion.