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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.
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on February 6, 2015
"Next of Kin" - a subtle and appropriate title for this book. Who is the next of kin? Depends on how you look at it - an intriguing aspect of the novel.

Owen Montignac, the protagonist, starts out as a moderate villain, and I'll avoid a plot spoiler by leaving it to the reader to find out if he seeks redemption or continues down the path toward unrepentant evil

As with Boyne's other excellent books, this one has woven into the plot an actual controversial, historical event - the question of whether Edward VIII could marry Wallis Simpson and still remain on the throne. Edward and Wallis make a cameo appearance, but it's how their situation affects the views and actions of the British government and aristocracy that is one major factor in the book.

Gareth Bentley, another leading character, shows up as a young Cambridge law graduate, from an aristocratic family, who has no desire to follow in the footsteps of his father's legal career, and is depicted as rich and aimless. But I'm not convinced he is any different from others of his sex, class, and age - in 1936 England. The father, of course, is a working judge, but are expectations for male members of upper-class families any different then than in earlier decades, when such folks were routinely expected, as in "The Importance of Being Earnest," to avoid work at all costs. It does seem, however that Gareth may be too easily influenced by Owen and his other friends.

If you haven't yet read any Boyne books, start at once. I've now read four, and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. Character development is superb and the plots are both intriguing and believable. No need to start with the first book, as they all treat different topics and introduce different characters. Also, the books defy instant classification. Although deaths (sometimes murder) occur, they are not "thrillers," or "crime novels," or "mysteries." Likewise they are not "romances" or any of a number of other set categories. They are simply intelligently written, fascinating stories.
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on January 16, 2014
Credible and well written this story kept me going the whole way through. The plot is clever, well constructed but not altogether flawless yet such is the pace that one is inclined to overlook such minor cracks. All the characters have their place in the story. John Boyne has placed it around the king's abdication, giving it that additional edge, which I found fascinating, his inclusion of historical as well as fictional characters seamless.There is a mass of the unexpected in this book. Great story that keeps you on your toes as you constantly wonder when Owen Montignac is going to be brought down, the ending not altogether what I would have expected.
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on December 14, 2012
John Boyne weaves a masterful tale of love and hate and good and evil in the back drop of the abdication of Edward VIII in England in 1936. The characters are the scions of the last generation of those who lived off the vestiges of British Imperialism and a generation removed from the British landed gentry that most of us met in DOWNTON ABBEY.

Boyne, who is the master of foreshadowing, used his title, NEXT OF KIN, as a theme for the novel. The plot essentially revolves around the next of kin of Edward VIII, Peter Montignac and Judge Roderick Bentley. I found the first few chapters a little disjointed until Boyne sets up his characters. After that its a page turner that introduces the reader to real "no - goodnicks" who demonstrate greed, hate and deceit. Quickly they are characters that you love to hate.

Boyne is known for his unusual endings but I'm not sure that I liked the end of NEXT OF KIN. I would love to hear from anyone else who has read the book to see if they concur with my opinion about the ending.

This is my third Boyne work, having seen the movie of THE BOY IN THE STRIPPED PAJAMAS and just read THE ABSOLUTIST.
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on December 31, 2013
Next of Kin is a genuine page turner, a compelling novel. You think you can see where it is going until John Boyne trips you up with the unexpected. I have rarely felt such contempt for a main character and found myself cursing him under my breath for his dastardly ways!
The characters, their dialogue and the settings too are all very believable and the ending (although somewhat open to interpretation )is satisfying just the same. Were I to criticise any aspect of the book, it might be that previous happenings to characters are perhaps re-explained a little too often which is something the editor should have addressed.
You won't put it down though!
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on October 7, 2013
An enjoyable book. Another Heathclif or Iago? A story with difference, where hero is in completely black shades. He does not to hesitate to murder. To achieve his goal by all menace.
I must say John Boyne writes with different plot his each novel. In this book he has completely different plot, than his other novels.
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on February 21, 2008
In 1936, Hitler is becoming the rage on the continent; in England, the public affair between King Edward VIII and the commoner widow Mrs. Simpson holds the public's attention, but not Owen Montignac. Instead he believes his prayers have been answered with the timely death of his wealthy Uncle Peter. Owen owes £50,000 to casino boss Nicholas Delfy that must be paid in full by Christmas or he will spend the New Year and beyond with his deceased relative. However, to his dismay Owen learns his prayers went unanswered as dear Uncle Peter left him out of the will as deserving cousin Stella got everything. Desperation calls for desperate measures.

Gareth Bentley's responsible father a judge is outraged at the irresponsibility of his son as he only pursues pleasure ever since Stella imitated him when she was sixteen and he fifteen. Dad, a lawyer, considers cutting off funds to his son. However, before his parents consider leaving him without a pound to his name, the police suspect Gareth killed Stella's beloved Raymond. Stunned he pleads with his father to help him; insisting he is a victim of a clever frame from someone who knows him intimately and took advantage of his escapades. Desperation calls for desperate measures, but who would go that far.

This is an interesting historical mystery that uses King Edward's final days on the throne as a backdrop to a fascinating murder mystery that has its roots back a decade ago. However, Owen and Gareth are despicable individuals with no redeeming qualities. It is Gareth's parents who struggle with their conscience as they go out of their way to save their son; Judge Roderick especially hurts thinking back to those he condemned for hanging without an ounce of pity as he must choose between his values and his son. Readers will enjoy NEXT OF KIN as the past haunts their present.

Harriet Klausner
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on January 30, 2014
This is a great book for anyone who enjoys mysteries or likes historical fiction. Though the prose is a bit slow and uneven at the beginning, the characters quickly develop into colorful personalities whose dilemmas you follow with interest. The backdrop of the Prince's affair with Wallis Simpson provides a fun look at this scandalous time in British society, and behind-the-scenes look into the fictional influence-peddling and deception of the high courts. Definitely recommend!
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on August 18, 2009
The book is filled with anachronisms ("media", "drama queen") and dangling phrases. There are even Americanisms, and a misunderstanding of How Things Were that I thought was peculiar to us Americans. Boyne allows a climactic courtroom scene with a mine of dramatic potential to fall flat for lack of emphasis in the right places. Yet I still have to give it five stars for the great plotting and the subtle parallels between the characters. There is even a "character" who never makes an appearance and whose destiny we can only speculate about. That's cool. It's like life...you never know who is going to come along and skew your plans...most novels wrap everything up neatly. This one is neat in the very ambiguity of its ending. Some readers may think this ambiguity is carelessness on the author's part, but it's not; it was foreshadowed. I must search out Boyne's other books.
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on May 25, 2014
This novel had a slow start and and ending that was made me think a sequel was in the works...which I hate.
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