* Prices may differ from that shown
'The Loner' is a bit of a different novel for Quintin Jardine. His usual style is to write detective novels as part of a series of novels. This one, published in 2011, appears to be a stand alone novel, though it does have links to the very popular Bob Skinner detective series that he has been writing over the past 20 years.
The link is because this novel features a less prominent character from the Skinner series, and it is a look at his life story. The character in question is Xavi (Xavier) Aislado, who is a newspaper editor in the Skinner series for the Edinburgh based paper, The Saltire. In the Skinner series, we see that Bob Skinner is pretty close to this man when they have interactions together, and though this interaction in not that frequent, you are not told why they have a close working relationship. The Loner provides the background to the situation, answering any questions.
The approach to this novel at the start was a little odd for me, and I am not sure it worked for me, but I soon got past it and found this a good read once I got my head around the new character. The book starts with a 3 page co-author's note, written by Jardine as though this is about a real person and that this is a biographical novel. It was here with references to other characters that I ended up confused, for in amongst the list of people Jardine was claiming to have talked about when writing this biography is Bob Skinner who I know to be a fictional character.
I think if this was the first Jardine book you had come across, you might actually believe it was a genuine biography and it might lead to a lot of reader confusion.
As it was, I set out reading the novel a little unsure. This is indeed set out pretty similarly to a biography, or perhaps more like an autobiography, and covers the whole life of the main character Xavi. We are with him through his school days, through to his retirement, and his story is really quite unusual.
The man describes himself as a loner, but it is hard to see him like that as you see him as lonely rather than a loner when growing up. He is a young man being brought up by a slightly domineering and very traditional Spanish grandmother after his mother left when he was 7 years old, and his father was always out working. When he was in his mid-teens, they went back to live in Spain, leaving him to live as a boarder at his school.
However, Xavi is a bit of an exceptional young man, who made his own way through life. He is supported by his childhood friend and then sweetheart's family, a Jewish family called the Starshine's. Under Rod Starshine's influence, he takes up a semi-professional football career, and Magda Starshine is a maternal influence in his life.
When Xavi is about to start University, Xavi's father sets him up in a flat in Edinburgh, where he lives with some friends from school, and eventually his fiancée Grace Starshine.
Xavi has a clear focus in his life, which is that he wants to be a reporter after he visits his father's workplace in Spain. A football injury pushes him into this path sooner than he thought, and he throws himself into this career with great success and is a natural at it.
His circle is pretty close, but a fall out with his childhood friends leaves it a bit smaller, but Xavi is content with his family and his fiancée and his work. Life seems quite happy for them, and as they approach their late 20s, they decide to plan their wedding, but at the happiest point in their lives, a tragedy strikes, and both of Grace's parents are murdered. This is an event that will shape the rest of their lives together, as Grace is now left to run the factory of the family business, and Xavi is left trying to figure out who was responsible for it.
It takes a long while for him to figure it out, and when he does, it is something that he never would have predicted in a million years, and his story is certainly an unusual one.
I found this novel took me a little longer than usual to get into because of the format of it. I don't read a lot of biographical style novels myself, and although it was still a work of fiction you normally start a fictional story at a point that is slightly gripping at least to hook your attention. The build up here was a bit slower as you are looking at the slightly less eventful boyhood of the character, though I believe it is quite essential to have it this way as you need to understand why the relationships are so important in this story to understand how Xavi is a man of great personal integrity. He is the sort of man who would do anything for the ones he loves, but he has to trust you, and if you break that trust then he cuts you from his heart completely.
As a whole, the novel is busy, lots happens over a large number of years here. Once I got my head round it, I found I was very engaged with the plot, which is extremely well thought out and not too obvious as all Jardine novels are.
At its essence, this is still a mystery story, as there is a crime that needs solving, but by making this very personal to the main character and having Xavi as a reporter rather than a policeman or investigator, this novel had a different feel to me from the rest of the Jardine novels. Also, by being a stand alone novel rather than part of a series, there is a lot more depth to the character given in a short space of time compared to a series which is run over a number of books and not showing you as much depth of character in one particular novel.
I would say if you had not read Jardine before, this would be a great novel to introduce you to his work. He has perfected his writing over a number of years, and this novel is pretty much perfect as an example of his craftmanship.