Tom Pollock is the author of the very fine Urban Fantasy series, The Skyscraper Throne. With his latest novel, White Rabbit, Red Wolf, Pollock has moved away from fantasy towards the spy thriller. When the mother of teenage twins, Pete and Bel, is brutally stabbed, the pair find themselves on the run. Hunted by a shadowy government organization and in danger of being framed for the killing, who can they trust?
The book is notable for its hi-octane drama but also its thoughtfulness in the story’s quieter moments. Here are 5 reasons why you should read White Rabbit, Red Wolf. Note: The book is due an imminent US release where it will go under the title This Story Is a Lie.
1. The Twists.
All good spy novels need twists. White Rabbit, Red Wolf is no exception. Pete and Bel have no idea who they can trust or even whether they can trust each other. Everybody in the book comes under suspicion at some point or other as allegiances shift and truths bubble to the surface. The book will catch you out several times before the end, and if you guess the finale, then you’re far cleverer than me. Even if you do, what does it all mean? White Rabbit, Red Wold has a deliciously tantalizing semi-open ending, that will leave you reeling and pondering for days.
2. The Action.
The action sequences in White Rabbit, Red Wolf are second to none. There’s nothing overly-sensational to them, but they’re tense, taut and compelling. There are great set pieces with some high-class action-hero sequences. Much of the book is cerebral, making the punctuating outbursts of violence and action all the more effective.
3. The Math.
Pete is a math genius. Numbers help him find comfort in his own skin. As a result, the novel is filled with mathematical quirks and codes. It’s mana for math geeks and adds one more excellent layer to a very fine narrative.
4. The Sensitive Portrayal of Mental Health.
As well as being a math genius, Pete has crippling OCD. As the book opens, he has stuffed himself full of food. Having run out of food he’s moved on to the crockery.
“I ran out of numbers…And then…I ran out of food.”
Tom Pollock has talked openly about his own battles with bulimia and his experiences clearly inform Pete’s story. He’s an ambassador for Talklife, a peer support network for youth mental health. Many aspects of White Rabbit, Red Wolf touch on young people’s experiences of mental health and the stigma attached to it. Pollock handles his subject sensitively and it provides an informative backdrop to his story adding an extra layer that is often missing in thrillers such as these. White Rabbit, Red Wolf educates as well as entertains.
5. Use of Language.
My overall sense of this book is how great Pollock is with the English language. His descriptions are sublime. Reading his prose has that effortless ease that belies how much work goes into making it so.
“The end of the pistol’s like a black hole, sucking all the light out of the world.”
“The car is enormous now. Fear packs in around my heart and squeezes.”
“I swing the brick.” The window dissolves into glittering rain, shattering the silence. I glimpse a pair of startled eyes and plunge my arms through the gap, ripping my sleeves on the glass teeth that cling to the frame.”
The way Pollock conveys the tension of children on the run, the excitement in his set pieces, and the extent of Pete’s plight on his fragile mental state are exemplary. Even if the other 4 points in this list didn’t exist, White Rabbit, Red Wolf would be worth reading for Pollock’s writing alone.
So what are you waiting for?
White Rabbit, Red Wolf is a remarkable achievement. It has many parts, any of which are worthy of a good novel. The fact that Pollock manages to weave them together into a single whole makes good into great. It really is a tremendous read from start to finish.
If you wish to pick up a copy of White Rabbit, Red Wolf, you can do so here, in the US and here, in the UK. Note: The US edition of this book is called, This Story Is a Lie, and is available here, from August 7th.
If you enjoyed this review, check out my other 5 Reasons to Read posts, here.