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The Swap - Antony Moore

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Antony Moore / Hardcover / 336 Pages / Book is published 2007-07-05 by Harvill Secker

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      03.12.2010 11:30
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      Trying to right a 20-year old wrong, with some rather undesirable consequences

      Harvey Briscow is the most unlikely of heroes. A comic book shop owner who never really grew up and who is still living in the tiny flat he took as a temporary measure 15 years ago, you rather get the impression that life is passing him by somehow. Still, it's an alright sort of existence for someone who loves a fantasy world so much, upset only occasionally by the postman bringing unpleasant bills or, worse, a cheerful invitation to a school reunion. Harvey often thinks about the past, in particular about a rather ill advised swap he made with a classmate more than 20 years ago. Unbeknown to him then, the item he swapped was going to become rather a rare find over the next few years, culminating in a market worth of, well, a considerable amount. Barely a day goes by when Harvey doesn't think about what could have been, the other life that was almost his. Prompted by an employee, the rather dubious Josh, he heads back home for the reunion with a plan to swindle his old school friend out of that comic, now worth rather a handsome sum of money. But, a few fights, some confusion, a brief moment of girlfriend stealing and one dead mother later, and the phrase "things didn't go quite to plan" is the understatement of the century. Embroiled in a murder investigation for which he is quite understandably, given the circumstances, one of the main suspects, Harvey has to fight to clear his name, get the girl and save the day, all at the same time. Marvellous stuff. I'm used to chick lit, so having a blokey anti-hero like Harvey, who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and swears like a trooper was quite novel for me. The language was a little more colourful that I'm used to, but wasn't rude to the extreme, or especially offensive in any way, and the wicked black comedy bubbling below the surface made it a treat to read. The story gallops along at a tremendous pace with some brilliant twists, and the ending, though a little too ambiguous for my liking, is a pretty perfect finish to the story. This is lots of books rolled in to one - a murder mystery, a crime novel, a thriller, even a romance, albeit a bit of a blokey one. There are lots of interesting characters who are wildly different but still cross paths with each other, thanks to the reunion storyline that brings back a group who attended the same school together 20 years ago but who have all gone in different directions since. It's the sort of thing that would make a good movie as well as a great book, and luckily for us the rights have been bought by a US studio, so it will no doubt be on the big screen in a few years. In the meantime, read the book, enjoy the ineptness of the main character, the oddness of another character, and the general shenanigans of the whole group, and be glad that you don't have to spend your life wondering "What if..." Published in 2007 means there are lots of used copies of this one around - a good option since although I enjoyed it, I'm not sure it was good enough for me to want to spend lots of money on, or re-read time and again. That said, it's a solid one-time read with wide appeal. This review first appeared on The Bookbag.

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