Review by Evie Woolmore
Title: The Kiss
Author: Adrienne Silcock
Genre: Emotional thriller
From a casual, coincidental meeting at a tourist site in Menorca, two couples find their lives entwined in the most complex dramatic fashion. It sounds like the plot of a thriller and in many ways this novel is one, if more emotional than criminal. A crime has however allegedly been committed and the journey of the accused to court is certainly part of the tale. But like all traditional thrillers, this is also a tale of power – power assumed, abused, manipulated – and as Ms Silcock rotates the progress of the narrative through the four key points of view, the two men and two women of the central couples, we see how that power ebbs and flows as each tries to regain control of the situation.
The pacing is appropriate too: the ‘no quote’ style blurs the distinction between dialogue and description, and consequently the agonies, anxieties and internal dialogues of the characters swirl up around the reader, perpetuating the sense of claustrophobia the characters experience as events spiral out of control. This is very much a character-driven novel too, for though the plot is clear – Tom is accused of a crime and Rick is his lawyer – the twists and turns of the story are not provided by the crime but by the emotional and sexual entanglement of Tom and Rick, and the collateral damage to their pre-existing relationships with their girlfriends, Rita and Simeon. (In the opinion of this reviewer, the naming of Simeon is problematic: though it may be significant and deliberate, giving a female character a generally male name is a bit of a confusion for the reader, especially at the beginning.)
One might sense a slightly simplistic touch to the characterisation: the most manipulative character uses sexual behaviour to control the other three characters to varying degrees, and an unsophisticated reading would deduce that gay equals bad or morally ambiguous. By contrast, the monogamous, strictly heterosexual women are portrayed as upright and morally strong, but they don’t seem particularly professionally independent as contemporary women of this class and background would perhaps be in real life. Are they really defined first and foremost by the men in their lives? Furthermore, Rick’s vacillation about his sexual identity mirrors his vacillation about his position as Tom’s lawyer, and the thoughts of Rick’s parents seem a little simplistic too.
There is a hint of contrivance about the opening but it plays well to the thriller trope and the reader will know from the outset that this is a tautly paced story with a readable flow to it.