Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 20-25,000 words
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Shaun Jeffrey grew up in a house located in a cemetery so he believes it’s only natural that he writes books with a darker side. Besides the novella Day by Day the author has also published five novels, a collection of short stories and is published in a large variety of magazines and anthologies.
An armed gang robs a theme park of its takings - £4m. To cover their escape the gang leader and mastermind, Greg Armstrong, blows up a rollercoaster killing and maiming many innocent bystanders.
Months later the gang are still at large. The police office leading the investigation, Kurt Vaughan, is out on a geocaching treasure hunt with his family. Suddenly the fun turns to terror as the crooks and Kurt are thrown into a deadly game.
I recently reviewed Day by Day by the same author. This is a very different story, a true thriller. It was enjoyable and, at times, adrenaline pumping. However, for me it suffered from the same issue – it’s slightly too short to properly develop the underlying premise. I’ll come back to that.
The novella opens with the heist itself. It’s well done. The protagonist Armstrong is a brutal and believable character. The gang agrees that they’ll get back together to divide up the loot at a time in the future.
Jump forward a few months and we meet Kurt Vaughan who’s in the woods with his family undertaking a leisure pastime with his family called geocaching. It’s a total change in pace and setting. Unfortunately I’d never heard of geocaching previously so didn’t know what it was – basically clues are hidden in capsules leading to an ultimate prize.
The author didn’t explain who Kurt was until the gang members turn up in the same location. It’s an interesting premise, throwing two opposing teams against each other for the ultimate benefit of the puppet master, but I struggled with an issue of show versus tell here and Kurt’s character didn’t quite mesh with him being a policeman in ‘real’ life. However once the new premise settled down it was well written with a good element of tension.
This show versus tell also occurs at the conclusion when there’s some explanation as to a character’s motivation – I’d have liked to have seen this drawn out in the narrative instead, but it works reasonably well. However this is a personal view and may not bother the vast majority of readers.
To follow the geocaching theme there’s a puzzle at the end of the novella for the reader to solve which apparently takes you to a website. A nice bit of fun.
All in all an enjoyable, well written read but would have benefited from another few thousand words.
Some adult language.
Rating: **** Four Stars