Loss of Separation — book review

LOSS OF SEPARATION by Conrad Williams. Solaris £7.99

Reviewed by Jay Eales

They say that bad things come in threes. Paul Roan used to fly Boeing 777s, but after a near-collision – the loss of separation of the title, or at least one interpretation of it, he decided to ground himself, and opened a bed and breakfast with his girlfriend Tamara. Not long after, he is involved in a horrific hit and run car accident, leaving his body as broken and scarred as his psyche, and in a coma for several months. When he awakens, the third boot drops, and he finds Tamara missing.

Williams blends together genres with astounding skill. Part detective story, part psychological horror, grounded in the coastal fishing villageof Southwick, echoing nothing so much as the insular community of Summerisle from The Wicker Man. Paul fulfils the shamanic outsider role for the colony; they bring him their possessions, their secrets and other ephemera to burn. He is their sin eater; a role he never asked for, but does not shirk from.

Roan struggles throughout to keep his reality together, suffering memory loss from his accident and the effects of the powerful pain medication that keeps his jigsaw puzzle body together. This leads to some phenomenal scenes where nightmare and truth blur, and the audience is really able to identify with the protagonist. Despite the likelihood that any reader will find themselves in similar situations to Roan, his actions seem real, and his investigations no more assured than any other normal person’s would be. There are no leaps of logic or intuition here, just a man desperate to find his girlfriend and the truth, and to overcome his demons, both psychological and physical.

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