THE NEW NIALL BURNET THRILLER!
Synopsis supplied by the publisher:
Superstar Paralympian Fiona Mackintosh Green retires from the track to set up Forward Roll, a charity helping disabled people achieve self-respect through sport. But is she all she seems? How is her charity spending its money?
Niall Burnet, visually impaired journalist, is sent in undercover to find out. What he discovers is a trail of illegal performance-enhancing drugs that leads from the charity to its major backer, global pharmaceutical giant Prince Rajkumar.
All too soon, Niall finds himself surrounded by key players who will stop at nothing to protect their interests. When a former athlete is found dead, he knows that one wrong move could be his last…
Publication Day: 5th July 2018
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Category: Fiction, Genre: Conspiracy Thriller | Political Thriller | Action Thriller
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This is the sequel to Eyes of the Blind, Alex Tresillian’s first novel about journalist Niall Burnet. I have not read the first and feel that this can easily be read as a stand alone tale, but those of you who have read my reviews in the past will know that I personally prefer to have read books from number one. Personal preference! In this case the storyline from the first book does continue into this novel, and whilst there is sufficient explanation to be able to easily follow, I would always recommend reading book one! However the opening scenes set in Telford draw the reader into the plot, slowly allowing a catch up on the story of Niall and Miranda before the new investigation commences.
When this book popped onto my radar I was excited to read and review something that has different types of disability at the fore and keen to understand how the author would incorporate them into the storyline. It would have been easy to have the disability element as a token nod, but I don’t believe that this is how the author constructs this story as the visual impairment of Niall and the new sight of girlfriend Miranda are central to the plot – as they would have been in the first book too. However this is dealt with in a very matter of fact way, allowing us into Niall’s world as a blind man but more importantly into his world as a journalist – no saccharine coating in sight (no pun intended).
The introduction of Paralympian Fiona is handled differently as she is a celebrity as a result of her disability and her sporting success, but her disability is written about sympathetically without it enveloping her whole character. As a relatively new wheelchair user, I was able to relate to certain elements very well. These aren’t a major part of the storyline, neither should they be, but the descriptions of the lay out of her office furniture and the adapted shower room all rang bells with me – as did her need for help to get into her evening dress! The public face and the private face are elements that anyone with a disability/chronic illness can relate to – no one wants the lack of dignity that can come with wheelchair use being played in public. This is demonstrated so well as Fiona explains how she manages her bladder – as a young woman she wishes to have as much control over her body functions for as long as possible, and if this means “toiletting” every hour in order to avoid accidents, but also to avoid a catheter then so be it. Again this is something that I relate to personally, as someone with a neurogenic bladder who tries to avoid self catheterisation!
I have to applaud the author for recognising that disabled people have sex lives! This may seem a very odd thing to draw from the book, but there does tend to be a fear and embarrassment of recognising those of us with disabilities and chronic health as being sexual beings. I’m not going to give any spoilers about specific relationships in the book, but will say that the growing attractions and feelings are described sensitively and with the focus on the emotions of any growing relationship, not on the abilities of either party.
The characters are all really different and make for an interesting cast as their back stories and current stories start to intertwine the more that Niall investigates. Niall himself is loved by some of this cast and yet reviled by others, particularly some who have known him many years. I actually admire Niall for sticking to his beliefs for right and wrong – most of the time! – and for striving for justice. He certainly doesn’t take the easy route, extending himself beyond the original journalistic brief to expose the sports charity, when he realises that he could be onto a much greater story – the involvement of a major pharmaceutical giant in doping in athletes. As an ambitious journalist, of course he is following the bigger scoop – but his human side is shown as he refuses to write an expose on the small sports charity that he believes can still do much good. Niall is a flawed character in so many ways, but this makes him human. He has mixed emotions about Miranda gaining her sight – envy, guilt, fear, delight – all swirling around inside him like a pressure cooker, yet he is unable to acknowledge most of them far less verbalise them.
Miranda, in contrast, at times is a rather pathetic figure in the way that she comes across. I think my feelings toward her were something of disbelief and anger that she is so apathetic about the miracle of gaining her sight, but it is only as the story progresses that I realised how hard it must be to suddenly be living in the sighted world after 30 years of being “cocooned” by both her lack of sight and her family’s protectiveness. The descriptions of managing public transport in London for the time alone are beautifully written – navigating the underground for the first time is a challenge for anyone, but for a young woman who has never been able to see before this represents a whole visual stimulus overload! Miranda is the character who grows the most throughout the book. She is neglected by Niall on the move to London and this pushes her to examine what she wants from her life. She feels unskilled and at sea in the sighted world, yet she knows she wants a purpose. Her crippling anxiety both holds her back and drives her forward. by the time I reached the end of the book, my opinion of her had changed completely.
The backing cast include Fiona’s chauvinistic sports coach husband – described perfectly to elicit strong feelings of dislike in the reader; Zoltan, Miranda’s knight in shining armour; the men, including Miranda’s father, who form an “old boys’ network” at the centre of the other charity in the story and believe that they are untouchable; the strong Dame Hillary, brought in to overhaul the British association for the Blind yet finding herself drawn in to conspiracies and secrets; and finally the cast of workmates at the Sports Charity, all with their unique insights into the organisation.
The theme of drugs in sports is very topical and the investigation at the heart of the novel is fast, gritty, at times uncovers a seedy, dark underbelly that is unpalatable yet fascinating. The different attitudes to what constitutes “cheating” are interesting and the author indirectly asks the question “what is a level playing field?”. Morals, greed and money, dreams and aspiration, drive and ambition – all are central to the plot.
There are loose ends at the end, and whilst this is not a criticism as real life does not come gift boxed, I do want to know what happens to certain characters……and I hope that these incomplete tales mean that Mr Tresillian is planning for a return of Niall in a third book. I guess that this tells you how much I enjoyed it!! 4 stars
About the Author
Alex grew up in rural England with a dream to write for a living which never quite came true. He has enjoyed incarnations as a theatre publicity officer, restaurant manager, teacher, teacher trainer, and curriculum developer. Along the way Alex wrote five plays that were performed by students including one, Never Mind the Rain Forests, that was enthusiastically reviewed (3 stars) at the Edinburgh Fringe. Another, Gavin’s Kingdom, received a professional workshop production at the Birmingham Rep. Plays Into Shakespeare, a book for English and Drama teachers that introduced students to the characters in Shakespeare’s plays through short modern-English ‘additional’ scenes, was published by First and Best in Education in 2007.
Alex moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008 with a Lebanese international education company that had a contract to train English teachers and develop curriculum materials. Latterly moved to their Academic Development office in Beirut and wrote two series of books for students from ages eight to sixteen – one on grammar and one on the art of writing. He is now living with his wife of many years in Worcestershire, his children pursuing careers in education, fashion, charity fundraising and web development in places as disparate as Beijing, London and Chesterfield. Alex also enjoys writing stories for his young grandchildren.
Social Media Links for Alex