Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
on April 5, 2008
John Boyne's "Next of Kin" is a unique form of mystery - neither a whodunit nor a how-did-he-do-it, but a will-he-get-away-with-it. And Boyne is just the writer to carry off such an imaginative approach. He has a good sense of place and a well-crafted style and is able to sustain an intricate and labyrinthine plot. Despite its slow start, my only complaint, I highly recommend "Next of Kin."
Part of the appeal of the book is the setting. Boyne recreates an aristocratic England of the mid-1930s of country estates, London townhouses, private clubs, and luxurious gambling dens. The people found in these venues are surrounded by impending change, although they steadfastly plod along as if nothing at all is different. Yet, Hitler is rising in Europe, and at home London is abuzz with rumors of the king's affair with an American divorcee. Society itself is permeated with ruthless people who are looking for opportunities to seize wealth and power, while the unwary refuse to admit anything is different. Into this seething cauldron come two young men: Owen Montignac is a disinherited amoral aristocrat who would do anything to pay his monumental gambling debts, and Gareth Bentley, a hapless man-about-town who would do anything to avoid work.
The two form a partnership that eventually involves an art theft, a murder (with two more to be revealed), a conspiracy to force the king to abdicate, and a sensational trial with a framed defendant. With the exception of the murder victim and Gareth's parents - especially his mother, a vapid society lady who transforms herself into a formidable lioness at the end - the characters in this book range from mildly unpleasant to truly repellent. It is to Boyne's credit that he makes them so fascinating and this novel so compelling.